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Look out NASCAR!

But seriously, all great journeys begin with a single step.

Step 1:

Saudi women get behind the wheel to protest driving ban

One drives for 45 minutes through capital to protest male-only driving policy

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A Saudi woman defiantly drove through the nation's capital Friday while others brazenly cruised by police patrols in the first forays of a campaign that hopes to ignite a road rebellion against the male-only driving rules in the ultraconservative kingdom.

saudi-woman-driver.jpgIt was a rare grass-roots challenge to the Western-backed Saudi monarchy as it tries to ride out the Arab world's wave of change, and a lesson in how the uprisings are taking root in different ways. In this case, the driver's seat was turned into a powerful platform for women's rights in a country where wives and daughters have almost no political voice.

"We've seen that change is possible," said Maha al-Qahtani, a computer specialist at Saudi's Ministry of Education. She said she drove for 45 minutes around the capital, Riyadh with her husband in the passenger seat. "This is Saudi women saying, 'This is our time to make a change.'"

The number of Saudi women who drove apparently was small and there were no mass convoys of women at the wheel. No arrests or violence were immediately reported.

But the show of defiance could bring difficult choices for the Saudi regime, which has so far has escaped major unrest. Officials could either order a crackdown on the women or give way to the demands at the risk of angering traditional-minded clerics and other conservative groups.

It also could encourage wider reform bids by Saudi women, who are not allowed to vote and must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel or take a job.

Saudi Arabia is the only country that bans women from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

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This page contains a single entry by cul published on June 17, 2011 3:10 PM.

A Blow to the Bigots Worldwide was the previous entry in this blog.

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