Saudi woman files suit over right to drive

A Saudi woman gets out of the backseat of a car. Religious interpretations do not allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Story highlights

  • Manal al Sharif says she hopes the lawsuit will spark change
  • She has been an icon of a campaign pushing for women's rights to drive
  • Al Sharif says she filed the lawsuit after her license application was denied
  • Religious edicts are often interpreted as a prohibition of female drivers in Saudi Arabia

A leader of a high-profile campaign pushing for women to drive in Saudi Arabia says she's suing traffic police in order to get a driver's license.

Manal al Sharif told CNN Sunday that she filed an objection with the General Directorate of Traffic in Riyadh, the country's capital, when officials rejected her license application.

After waiting 90 days and receiving no response, she filed her suit against them in November.

"It's just creating positive pressure on the officials to get back to us -- and it will encourage more women to apply for licenses and file lawsuits," she said.

There are no specific traffic laws that make it illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. However, religious edicts are often interpreted as a prohibition of female drivers. Such edicts also prevent women from opening bank accounts, obtaining passports or even going to school without the presence of a male guardian.

Saudi female driver spared 10 lashes
Saudi female driver spared 10 lashes


    Saudi female driver spared 10 lashes


Saudi female driver spared 10 lashes 03:08

Al Sharif said her case had been transferred to Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry. Officials there could not be reached for comment.

Al Sharif said she first applied for a license after being stopped by the authorities for driving a car last May.

She was detained, spent nine days in jail and quickly became an icon of the "Women2Drive" campaign, an initiative demanding the right for women to drive and travel freely in Saudi Arabia.

A Facebook page organizing a campaign for women to drive last June included a banner that read, "We are all Manal Sharif," and a quote from King Abdullah stating that "the day will come when women will be able to drive."

The single mother and information technology specialist's name first became a rallying cry for Saudi women last year after she uploaded a YouTube video of herself driving.

Through the lawsuit, al Sharif said she is continuing her fight.

"There is no law forbidding women from driving," she said.

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