Sunday, November 08, 2009


A group of Saudi women have launched an international campaign against the kingdom’s male guardianship law, on the anniversary of a prominent protest, in which dozens of Saudi women publicly drove their cars through the country’s capital.

The campaign calls on supporters all over the world to tie a black ribbon around their wrist signifying a call for Saudi women to be given equal rights to men and an end to the male guardianship system, in which Saudi women are represented by men in all public and official spheres of life.

“We are calling on everybody, both Saudi and non-Saudi, to show their support of Saudi women,” Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, the leader of the campaign, told The Media Line. “It’s not just about the right to drive, it’s everything,” she said. “We want to have our lives back, which the male guardianship system took from us. So we are calling for everyone to wear this black ribbon and spread the word.”

A statement by campaign organizers called for women to be given “rights to marry, divorce, inherit, gain custody of children, travel, work, study, drive cars and live on an equal footing with man.”

“We, Saudi women activists, appeal to all those who support Saudi women’s rights, inside and outside the Kingdom, to participate in the campaign by wearing a black ribbon on their wrists as a symbolic and peaceful gesture of their advocacy to Saudi women’s rights,” the statement read.

Under the motto “we will not untie our ribbon until Saudi women enjoy their rights as adult citizens”, the “Black Ribbon Campaign” was launched Friday to mark the anniversary of a famous event on November 6, 1990, in which 47 Saudi women publicly drove cars through the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in a protest calling for Saudi women to be given the right to drive. The women were subsequently detained by Saudi police, had their passports confiscated, and some were fired from their jobs.

Al-Huwaidar said she expected to receive significant support for the campaign throughout the weekend.

“I am expecting many people to wear it, especially people outside Saudi Arabia,” she said. “Teenagers wear the black ribbon anyway as a fashion. Now they have a reason, so that when someone asks, they will say ‘We are supporting Saudi women.’”

“I am hoping to get famous people to wear it and a group of us will be walking around throughout the day recruiting women,” Al-Huwaidar added. “I’m trying of course to avoid the religious police because they are always around, but we are just asking for our rights.”

Saudi Arabia has seen growing social tension as the younger generation demands a liberalization of the hold the kingdom’s strict religious establishment has over the country’s laws.


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