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Anti-driving ban campaigner Manal al-Sharif says unnamed desert woman was victim in fatal Jeddah crash
reddit this Martin Chulov
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 25 January 2012 09.57 EST larger
The woman reported killed in car crash in Saudi Arabia has told the Guardian she is alive, and the real victim was an unnamed member of a desert community.
Manal al-Sharif, the figurehead of a Saudi female driving campaign, said the woman who died in the fatal accident near Jeddah on Monday was not part of a group trying to overturn laws that ban women from taking the wheel.
Sharif and Rasha al-Dowiia, another woman who has defied the kingdom's laws banning female drivers, said officials largely ignored the small bedouin community to which the dead woman belonged, in an area named Ha'el. They said women regularly drove there but police left them alone because the bedouin were detached from mainstream Saudi society.
The dead woman's family is withholding her name. A second woman was injured in the accident and remains in hospital.
A slowly growing number of Saudi women are trying to force changes to laws that stop them from driving. Saudi Arabia enforces a hardline interpretation of Islamic law, and is one of the very few countries in the world to deny women the right to drive.
A vigorous internet campaign began last year, in which women such as Sharif, 32, a computer security consultant, were filmed behind the wheel. Videos posted to YouTube led to renewed scrutiny of the issue but failed to force a change to the law.
Sharif and Dowiia were both briefly jailed last year, and a third women who also drove was sentenced to 10 lashes. However, the sentence was overturned after the intervention of King Abdullah.
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