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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Saudi women drove cars; one might go to Olympics

From UPI:
Saudi Arabian women drove cars to mark the one-year anniversary of a campaign to end the ban on women getting behind the wheel, officials said.

"What's happening today is not a protest," said Aziza al-Yousef, who took a 15-minute drive Friday. "We want to remember the day and the issue."

Earlier this week, members of the women's group demanding the right to drive called off a protest scheduled for Friday, saying they didn't believe Saudi Arabia was ready for a protest, Bikyamasr.com reported.

The women also sent King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz a petition urging him to lift the ban on women driving.

"Our initiative is not aimed at violating laws," said a letter to the king from Manal al-Sharif and Najla Hariri, 45. The petition asks for "the possibility for women to get a driving license in nearby countries and allowing them to start driving."
The LA Times has an interview with the leader of the movement.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Saudis will send a woman to compete in the Olympics:
Saudi Arabia, in a sudden turnabout has lifted its ban on women athletes competing in international tournaments little more than a week after the death of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, an opponent of women’s participation in global sports events.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the reversal that was announced in a statement by the Saudi embassy in London. A Saudi women equestrian is expected to be the conservative kingdom’s only female athlete likely to qualify for next month’s London Olympics. The kingdom does not encourage women’s sports, offer girls physical education in public schools or include women in its national sports plan.

The embassy statement followed months of sea-saw [sic] pronouncements on whether women would be allowed to compete in London, topped in April by a statement by Prince Nayef categorically ruling out. Prince Nayef, largely viewed as a conservative hardliner with close ties to Saudi Arabia’s religious leadership was succeeded as crown prince by Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz who is believed to be more liberal.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking forward to full participation” in the Olympic Games. “The Saudi Olympic Committee will oversee participation of female competitors who qualify,” the Saudi embassy in London said.

If indeed implemented it would mark the first time that Saudi women are allowed to officially participate in an international sports tournament and would mean that the kingdom no longer is the only country in the world that refuses to allow women to compete on a global scale.