This could be the most peaceful variant of The Arab Spring we have seen to date.
Or it could turn out to be very painful. And very scary.
The big event will take place in Saudi Arabia. There, from June 17 onward, hundreds of women will be -- wait for it -- driving their own cars. No male family members. No professional drivers. Just women. Driving.
To pull this off without ending up in the slammer, the women came up with an idea: "What if we set a date where any woman around Saudi who has a driver's license"can go in public and drive? We are hoping to collect as many supporters as we can, if we succeed of collecting 100s in major cities, and all of them start driving June 17 and forward, it will be so much hectic for authorities and it will force them to look at our issue."
They explained further: "We are not demonstrating or going out in groups. It will be individual act and we asked all brave women who will participate to video tape themselves and post it on our FaceBook page for the rest of the world to see and to prove that we can do it and to encourage those who are afraid to take that step."
A spokesperson for the group -- known as "Women 2 Drive" -- said, "We tried and tried to get our voice heard, but we have been faced with ignorance, it's time we simply take an action until they accept sitting with us on the same table... and listen."
She added, "Saudi women's rights have been overlooked for decades. We were waiting for a miracle to happen and waiting. We finally had enough and decided no more waiting, we will go get it! and the start will be announcing the day we will go ahead and drive our cars in public on June 17 onward."
Women represent 46% of the Saudi population (13,157,907 females out of 28,686,633 the total population of Saudi). "We have over 2 million working women who can't go to work by themselves and depend on a male driver whether family or private driver. We have 750,000 private drivers here," a spokesperson said, adding:
"There is no written law banning women from driving, it's just the known thing that women can't drive. And police arrest women if they drive in public. What's worse [is] that Saudi has no public transportation like the rest of the world. So moving around or going to work is piece of hell and very expensive."
If you visit our FaceBook event, she said, "we have 558 attendees and the number is increasing every hour. Our twitter page is followed by almost 800 followers. We are contacting everyone, asked for help from moviemakers, photographers and cartoonist to support us. And we created a group of female volunteers to teach women how to drive for free to prepare them. We also have men too supporting us so much. and we will get Islamic scholars and public figures supporting our cause too. And we are writing a letter to King Abdallah himself with this decision."
The Group's statement on its Facebook page, found at ( http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=117325311683192) declares:
"On June 17th, 2011, we women in Saudi Arabia, from all nationalities, will start driving our cars by ourselves. We are not here to break the law or demonstrate or challenge the authorities, we are here to claim one of our simplest rights. We have driver's licenses and we will abide by the traffic laws. Enough with the talk... we are here to walk the talk and just do it. it's about time!"
The women are using all the new social networking tools to recruit more drivers and raise public awareness of the activity. There has not yet been any official response from the Saudi government. Its twitter account is:
I'm sure a lot of us remember the "listening tour" to Saudi Arabia embarked upon by George Bush's public diplomacy advisor, Karen Hughes, back in 2005. Her job was to spread the American message to Muslim publics. But, in Saudi Arabia, one of those publics -- rich women -- had a decidedly pointed message for Ms. Hughes.
The New York Times reported that on September 27th, in Jeddah, "the audience - 500 women covered in black at a Saudi university - seemed an ideal place for Karen P. Hughes, a senior Bush administration official charged with spreading the American message in the Muslim world, to make her pitch."
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