Fourteen women US senators sent a letter to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday asking him to lift the country’s ban on women drivers. “As you know, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world with such a ban on women driving,” the senators wrote, “and maintaining such a restriction stands in stark contrast with the commitments your government has made to promote the rights of Saudi women.”
The signers were led by Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Mary Landrieu and included Senators Dianne Feinstein, Patty Murray, Claire McCaskill, Barbara Mikulksi, Jeanne Shaheen, Maria Cantwell, Kirsten Gillibrand, Debbie Stabenow, Amy Klobuchar and Kay Hagan – all Democrats – as well as Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
On June 17, some 40 Saudi women got behind the wheel to protest the driving ban, which is based on religious rulings by senior clerics. Currently, Saudi Arabia does not have written laws barring women from driving. Women activists have continued to make forays onto the roads since then, often posting videos of themselves driving on social networks. Several dozen women have defied the ban in recent months, often tweeting about their experiences and posting videos of themselves behind the wheel on YouTube. A handful of women have been detained, including Manal al-Sharif, an IT consultant whose arrest in May inspired the wave of resistance.