Saudi female activist Manal Al Sharif who hit headlines after she was briefly jailed for defying a ban on driving cars in the conservative Gulf Kingdom said on Thursday the day would come when women would be able to wrest that right and drive.
In comments sent to Emirates 24/7, Al Sharif said Saudi women must pursue their struggle to achieve all their rights not only driving cars.
Al Sharif was asked whether she believes the day will come when Saudi women would be allowed to drive in the Moslem Kingdom, the world’s dominant oil power.
“The question should not be whether women will be ‘allowed because the Saudi Monarchy will never give away rights just like that,” she said.
“The question should be: will women ‘take’ the right to drive… my answer is yes, that right and bigger.. if they understand what led to losing their rights and stopped accepting their rights to being used by the system to please certain group of people in Saudi Arabia and here I mean religious establishment.. it’s up to women not them.. women don’t realize that yet.. once they do, they will win the struggle and set their own rules that everyone shall respect..”
Al Sharif, a 33-yeaqr-old computer expert at the state-owned oil producer Saudi Aramco, was the key figure in a women’s campaign in 2011 pressing for lifting a long-standing ban on women to drive cars inside the kingdom, the largest Arab economy.
Saudi officials say it is up to Kingdom Abdullah to issue a decision ending the ban, which they attribute to social barriers in the country of 28 million people.
In an article published by the London-based Saudi Arabic language daily Alhayat on Wednesday, Al Sharif said she had faced what she described a concerted hostile campaign inside Saudi Arabia, adding that she has been accused of being an “Israeli agent” and a “Shiite Moslem” working for Iran.
Al Sharif also said she was shocked to learn that her little son was beaten by his school mates for being the son of “Manal Al Sharif.”
“I was shocked and frightened to see marks of beating on my son’s face…he told me older school mates hit him because he is the son of Manal Al Sharif who drove a car…he was only 5 years old in 2011 when he was subjected to this,” she said.
“One boy said to him ‘I saw your mother on Facebook but you and your mother should be in prison…I still remember when I struggled to calm down my son because I was even more frightened than him….how could a 5-year-old understand a word like jail.”