(AFP) – Jan 2, 2008
RIYADH (AFP) — Saudi women activists Wednesday began a fresh effort to get a ban on women drivers lifted in 2008, handing in a new petition to King Abdullah urging him to quash the restriction.
Signatories of the petition "hope that 2008 will be the year in which Saudi women obtain their natural right to drive a car," according to the document.
Campaigner Fawzia al-Oyouni told AFP the petition is part of a continuing effort to quash the ban in the oil-rich but ultraconservative kingdom, where women are forced to cover from head to toe in public.
The petition follows a similar one sent to the king last September signed by more than 1,100 Saudis.
"We hope to send a new petition each time we manage to get 1000 new signatures," Oyouni said.
Women cannot travel without the written permission of their male guardian, who could be the woman's grandfather, father, uncle, husband, son or brother.
Although women cannot drive themselves, they can be chauffeured around by hired drivers.
The petitions are the brainchild of Oyouni and three other activists -- Wajiha Huwaidar, Ibtihal Mubarak and Haifa Usra -- who have formed an association for the protection and defence of women's rights.
Although Saudi Arabia has taken small steps toward reform, women were barred from landmark municipal elections in 2005 and remain subject to a host of restrictions.
A group of 47 women defied the ban on driving by taking to the streets of the capital Riyadh in 15 cars in November 1990. They were swiftly rounded up by police and penalised, while their male guardians were reprimanded.
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