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Women drivers released in Saudi Arabia

Whilst we might like to think getting a driving license or commuting to work is hard, it could be much harder. Two people more acutely aware of this than most are Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi. 

When trying to cross the border from the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia, Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested because she was driving. Her passport was seized by security officers and she was forced to spend the night in her car in al-Batha. 

The next day Maysaa al-Amoudi, a Saudi Arabian TV presenter and journalist, found herself under arrest at the same border despite telling the Saudi Arabian authorities that she was not going to drive within their country. She was trying to bring al-Hathloul much needed supplies. 

el-Amoudi and al-Hathloul were held in detention for ten weeks during which time we urged you to write urgent appeals to the authorities. They were finally released on 12 February. Many thanks to all who took action. 

On release, they were apparently told that the case brought against them had been closed, and that there would be no more court hearings for them to attend. However, both the conditions of their release and their legal status remain unclear.  

Detained for driving

Following their arrest, el-Amoudi and al-Hathloul faced interrogation at a police station in al-Batha, before transferral to the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution for further questioning in the city of al-Hufuf (Eastern Province). Both were detained in al-Ahsa for ten weeks. Loujain al-Hathloul spent this time in a correctional facility and Maysaa el-Amoudi was taken to a central prison. 

They were brought to trial before the Specialised Criminal Court in the city of Riyadh. This court’s function is to deal with terror cases. The charges included both their driving and their involvement in online activism, as part of the campaign for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Demanding women's rights in Saudi Arabia

el-Amoudi and al-Hathloul both support the campaign for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia. There are approximately 12 million women and girls living in Saudi Arabia, who are currently limited in their liberty of movement, or will be in the future if the law does not change. 

Something to think about the next time you’re caught in traffic.

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