11/29/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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"Drivers" shirt, cake with toy car: protest of Saudi women drivers

Women who want to drive protest in the only country in the world where this is prohibited. In their view, the question concerns the recognition of their liberties.

 Riyadh (AsiaNews) - A shirt with the word "drivers" on it, a cake with a car on top, a group photo: this is how about fifty Saudi women demonstrated this year, commemorating the protest that on November 6, 1990, saw a group of 47 female drivers in a convoy that for half an hour drove around Riyadh. They were then stopped by the police, because Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive, although this summer government officials maintained that they are studying the possibility of a decree that, by the end of the year, would abolish the ban.

 The reaction of the authorities was harsh. All of the female drivers and their husbands (who fulfill the role of the "guardian" that every woman must have) were prohibited to leave the country for one year, and the women who were public employees were fired, but as Fawzia al Bakr, a professor who was one of the drivers, tells NPR, "wherever you work, you are labeled as a 'driver' and you will never be promoted, no matter how good you are."

"I think it was worth it because we raised the issue of the women in Saudi Arabia and the consciousness about it," says Aisha al Mana, a businesswoman. "We went through around a year of harassment because they thought we did something that is not acceptable by society."

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