Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hillary Clinton backs Saudi Arabia women's right-to-drive campaign

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed support for the Saudi women who are fighting to gain permission to drive cars. She also carefully stated that this movement is the women’s alone, and that the U.S. has nothing to do with it. In the past the US government has tried hard to stay out of this issue. It was very striking when former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made a visit to Saudi Arabia and said she would be staying out of the issue, that it was an ‘internal affairs’ matter, or something to that effect. Thankfully, times have changed, and with the Arab Spring now extending to this issue in Saudi Arabia, Clinton has spoken up with her government’s support. It’s about time.

The text of the story from the UK’s Guardian is below and the link to it is: here

Hillary Clinton backs Saudi Arabia women's right-to-drive campaign 
A Saudi Arabian woman drives a car as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on female drivers. Photograph: Ho/AP
Hillary Clinton has lent her support to women in Saudi Arabia protesting against the ban on female drivers, her first public comments on an issue complicating relations between Washington and Riyadh.

A day after the US state department said it was handling the issue through "quiet diplomacy" and not public pronouncements, Clinton praised the protesters, but stressed they were acting on their own behalf, not at the behest of outsiders such as herself.
"What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right, but the effort belongs to them," said Clinton. "I am moved by it and I support them, but I want to underscore the fact that this is not coming from outside of their country. This is the women themselves, seeking to be recognised."
The protests have put the Obama administration, and Clinton in particular, in a difficult position. While she and many other top US officials personally oppose the Saudi ban on female drivers, the administration is increasingly reliant on Saudi authorities to provide stability and continuity in the Middle East and Gulf amid uprisings taking place across the Arab world.
Thus, some officials have been reluctant to antagonise the Saudis.
On Monday, a coalition of Saudi activists urged Clinton to support publicly the campaign to end male-only driving in the ultra-conservative Muslim country.
Clinton said on Tuesday that she and other US officials had raised the matter "at the highest level of the Saudi government".
"We have made clear our views that women everywhere, including women in the kingdom, have the right to make decisions about their lives and their futures," she said. "They have the right to contribute to society and provide for their children and their families, and mobility, such as provided by the freedom to drive, provides access to economic opportunity, including jobs, which does fuel growth and stability.
"And it's also important for just day-to-day life, to say nothing of the necessity from time to time to transport children for various needs and sometimes even emergencies," Clinton said. "We will continue in private and in public to urge all governments to address issues of discrimination and to ensure that women have the equal opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential."

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