Last Updated: Mon May 30, 2011 22:34 pm (KSA) 19:34 pm (GMT)

Saudi women detained for driving to be freed on bail

Saudi woman, Wajeha al-Huwaider, protesting for women’s right to drive their vehicles in the conservative kingdom. (File Photo)
Saudi woman, Wajeha al-Huwaider, protesting for women’s right to drive their vehicles in the conservative kingdom. (File Photo)

Saudi authorities decided Monday to free on bail Manal al-Sharif, who was detained for 10 days for breaking the ultra-conservative kingdom's ban on women driving, Agence-France Presse reported her lawyer as saying.

"We were informed today of the decision to free Manal on bail. The procedural steps towards her release are under way," Adnan al-Saleh told AFP, adding that he hoped the case would now be closed.

Ms. al-Sharif had called upon King Abdullah to release her, Mr. al-Saleh told AFP on Sunday after meeting his client in prison.

Ms. al-Sharif, a 32-year-old computer-security consultant, was arrested on May 22 after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving her car around the eastern Saudi city of Khobar. Her You Tube rating initially received more than 500,000 in ratings.

The divorced mother of one explained in the video that getting around was often a headache. Women in Saudi Arabia without the means to hire a chauffeur must depend upon the goodwill of male family members to drive them.

The authorities decided on Thursday to extend al-Sharif's detention to 10 days after her arrest sparked debate about women's rights within the kingdom.

Ms. al-Sherif re-ignited the women rights to drive again.

A petition calling for Ms. al-Sharif's release had by Monday garnered 3,345 signatures, AFP said.

Addressed to King Abdullah, it demanded her release "pending a clear decision on the question of the right of women to drive" in the kingdom.

A Facebook page titled "We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women's rights," on Sunday had over 24,000 supporters.

Around 5,537 participants on the social network site Facebook vowed to physically beat men and women who support Saudi women driving their four wheels on the planned day of June 17.

The anonymous founder of the Facebook page urged his male counterparts to use “all they can to stop women from driving,” including the “Igal.”

“Igal” is the thick black-circled wiring that holds the usually white-red checkered scarf “Ghutra” which mainly Gulf Arabs don.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy interior ministry known for his religious tendencies said last week that the ban should be enforced as it is part of a 1991 'law'.

While Ms. al-Sharif was accused of “violating public order” , Saudi observers see that the ban is only in accordance to the kingdom’s conservative tradition and not violating laws.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb, an editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: dina.ibrahim@mbc.net)

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