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Activists: Authorities release Saudi woman detained for driving

From Atika Shubert, CNN
Manal al Sharif, a 32-year-old Saudi Arabian, campaigns for women's right to drive in her country.
Manal al Sharif, a 32-year-old Saudi Arabian, campaigns for women's right to drive in her country.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activist: Manal al Sharif has not been charged, but the case remains open
  • The IT specialist and single mother has posted a video on YouTube of herself driving
  • She is part of Women2Drive, which demands the right for women to travel freely
  • Religious edicts in Saudi Arabia are often interpreted as a ban on female drivers

(CNN) -- A 32-year-old Saudi Arabian who has crusaded for women to drive in her country was released from jail after more than a week in custody, human rights activists said Monday.

Authorities stopped Manal al Sharif for driving a car May 21 and detained her the next day. The single mother and information technology specialist had also uploaded a YouTube video of herself driving.

She has not been charged, but the case remains open and she may be called back, according to human rights activist Waleed Abu Alkhair, who said he had spoken with al Sharif's attorney.

Al Sharif is part of Women2Drive, an initiative demanding the right for women to drive and travel freely in Saudi Arabia. The organization also confirmed her release Monday.

In an interview with CNN before her detention, al Sharif said she was determined to speak out.

"We have a saying," she said. "The rain starts with a single drop. This is a symbolic thing."

While there are no traffic laws that make it illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, religious edicts are often interpreted as a ban on female drivers.

Hundreds of women have joined a campaign on Facebook and Twitter to begin driving June 17. Some women, such as al Sharif, with international licenses began driving earlier.

Saudi woman driver arrested
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"We are not doing anything that is breaking the law," al Sharif said.

Strict segregation by sex means women in Saudi Arabia can't travel without a male relative or take public transportation. Many women hire expensive drivers or taxis to get around.

Al Sharif said she became frustrated after she had difficulty going home one evening.

"I had to walk on the street for half an hour looking for a cab. I was harassed by every single car because it was late at night and I was walking alone," she told CNN. "I kept calling my brother to pick me up but his phone wasn't answering. I was crying in the street. A 32-year-old grown woman, a mother, crying like a kid because I couldn't find anyone to bring me home."

Facebook and Twitter accounts in support of al Sharif have bloomed, with thousands of supporters.

Since her detention, several Saudi women have followed Manal into the driver's seat and uploaded their videos onto the web.

 
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