Oct 23 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's government sought
to snuff out a campaign to end a ban on women driving, warning
on Wednesday it would use force to stop any protest aimed at
overturning the ban.
Saudi women's rights activists posted online photographs and
video clips of themselves defying the ban this month after some
members of the Shoura Council, an influential body that advises
the government, called for an end to the prohibition.
is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving,
but debate about the ban, once confined to the private sphere and social
media, is spreading to public forums too.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said calls on social media for
"banned gatherings and marches" to encourage women to drive were
"The Interior Ministry confirms to all that the concerned
authorities will enforce the law against all the violators with
firmness and force," the ministry said in a statement carried by
state news agency SPA.
There is no specific law that prevents women from driving in
the conservative kingdom but they cannot apply for driving
licences and some have been arrested on charges relating to
public order or political protest after getting behind the
The "October 26 Driving" campaign has asked Saudis to put
its logo on their cars and called upon women with international
driving licences to get behind the wheel that day, while urging
other women to learn to drive.
Conservative supporters of the ban, including members of
Saudi Arabia's powerful clerical establishment, have said
allowing women to drive will encourage the sexes to mix freely
in public and thus threaten public morality.
On Tuesday, Saudi news website www.sabq.org said that 200
Muslim clerics and preachers had visited the royal court in the
Red Sea city of Jeddah to make a case against women driving.
"We came to the guardian (King Abdullah) to clarify the
seriousness of this period," Sabq quoted Sheikh Nasser bin
Salman al-Omar, secretary-general of the League of Muslim
Scholars, as saying.
"If those behind the conspiracy of women driving approach
the house from the back, the sheikhs wanted to come through the
front doors," he added.
(Reporting by Rania El Gamal and Sami Aboudi; editing by Tom