Manama: A Saudi police spokesman has denied claims that a woman has been arrested for driving her father’s car.
“The reports that a woman was seen driving a car with her father sitting next to her are true,” Sa’ad Saleh Tarrad, media spokesman for Al Baha police, said. “However, the investigation concluded that the father felt ill and could not drive, so he asked his daughter to drive the car. Both the man and his daughter were released immediately after they were questioned and there was no arrest,” he said, quoted by Al Madina daily on Wednesday.
Reports claimed that the woman was held by the police after she was caught driving in the Saudi Arabian southwestern city. No legal text bans Saudi women from driving, but deep-rooted customs have not allowed women to sit behind the steering wheel as a bitter standoff between activists calling for granting them the right and conservatives who see it as a gateway to serious social problems has intensified.
Reports about women arrested for driving have invariably mobilised forces in both camps to call for their release or to condemn their challenge to the local customs. In the absence of legal texts regulating the matter, punishment for women who were “caught” driving ranged from signing pledges not to drive to corporal measures.
Last year, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz overturned a sentence of 10 lashes handed down to a woman who defied the driving ban.
Several bloggers said that the sentence against the woman, Shaima Jastaina, had to be condemned as an expression to stall a pro-women reform drive launched by King Abdullah that included giving women the right to vote and run in municipal elections and becoming members of the Shura Council, the country’s highest advisory authority.