09/29/2011, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Saudi king overturns ruling: no flogging for the woman driver

Shema Ghassaniya was sentenced to 10 lashes for made a film, while she was driving a car through the streets of Jeddah. The announcement via Twitter by Princess Amira. In Riyadh a woman detained for hours and then released for the same violation. Women's movement for civil rights is growing.
Jeddah (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has overturned the decision of the judges, who sentenced Shema Ghassaniya to 10 lashes for having driven a car through the streets of Jeddah. The monarch’s decision, although it has not been confirmed officially, was tweeted by Saudi Princess Amira Al Taweel, wife of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and women's rights activist: "Thank God - she writes - Shema’s flogging is canceled. We thank our beloved king. "

The ruling was passed on 26 September, the day after a series of reforms announced by the Saudi monarch, including the granting of women’s right to vote and be elected. The first historic women's vote is scheduled for 2015. Commenting on the revocation of the sentence, Princess Amira adds that they are "confident that all Saudi women are happy for that."

Meanwhile, there are news report of another arrest in Riyadh yesterday, a woman was "surprised" driving through the streets of the city, while being filmed by a foreign journalist. Identified by the name of Madeeha, she would have signed a document promising not to break the law (which prohibits women driving) in the future, and was released. Contacted via e-mail by Arab News, Madeeha said she was "happy" about the king's decision to grant greater political power for women. She also welcomes the lifting of Shema’s sentence to 10 lashes.

Commenting on the recent events in the kingdom, a Saudi lawyer in Riyadh underlines that nowhere is it written in Islam that women are forbidden to drive. And as for Shema’s case, he states that the sentence is not related to a violation of Islamic law, but state law. "It is a deterrent - the lawyer concludes - and is based on the discretion of the court, punishing behaviors that lead to chaos."

For months, Saudi women have started a campaign of protests, with videos posted on the Internet, to obtain the right to drive. The number of activists who break the norm grows continuously, while the authorities are divided between the need to grant reforms - to show the international community - and the reality of an ultra-conservative society.


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