Dubai: Saudi Arabian police arrested five women for driving on Tuesday for the first time since dozens of women began testing the ban on driving on June 17, according to reports by local Saudi media.
In one incident, first reported on Facebook by Saudi journalist Jamal Banoon, four young women driving in the Dorat Al Aroos area of Jeddah were arrested by agents of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia’s religious police.
The women were taken to a criminal investigations unit.
In a second incident that night a woman driving in downtown Jeddah was suddenly surrounded by four police cars and taken into custody for driving.
Her car was confiscated, according to the conservative Saudi news site SABQ. It is not clear whether or not the five women are still in detention, and there have been no reports of their whereabouts since.
The incidents mark a significant departure from the hands-off approach Saudi police have taken since women’s rights activists launched a nationwide right-to-drive campaign on June 17.
Saudi Women for Driving, a coalition of leading Saudi women’s rights activists that has already recruited 160,000 people in 156 countries to support Saudi women’s right to drive, are demanding the immediate release of all five women through an emergency call on Change.org, the world’s fastest growing platform for social change.
“While the status of these five women is not yet clear, one thing is: the Saudi police decided to wait a few weeks before cracking down in the hope that international attention on the ban on women driving would subside,” Saudi Women for Driving said in a statement