Saudi Arabia: Cyber-attack on women drivers protest site is part of pattern of intimidation

Saudi Arabian women activists still plan to defy a driving ban tomorrow despite having their campaign website hacked and threats from the authorities that their efforts will be blocked.

Earlier today a hacker took down the oct26driving.org website, posting in its place the message 'Drop the leadership of Saudi women ... Accident.' The cyber-attack came shortly after a spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior reiterated an official threat to enforce a longstanding ban on women driving in the country if women driver protesters take to the streets tomorrow.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are not allowed to drive. Although there is no official law banning women from driving, a ministerial decree in 1990 formalised an existing customary ban and women who attempt to drive face arrests.

'Saudi Arabian authorities use the excuse that society at large is behind the ban and claim that the law does not discriminate against women. But at the same time they continue to harass and intimidate women activists.

'This has included phone call and online threats, arbitrary travel bans and detentions, forcing activists and their family members to sign pledges not to drive, and using the state-controlled media to discredit activists.

'And twice this week the Interior Ministry has publicly removed any ambiguity about the authorities’ support for the ban on women driving.

'The ban and the ongoing scare tactics to maintain it are out of step with the modern world, and characteristic of the wider discrimination that crushes women’s freedom and besmirches the Kingdom’s reputation.'
Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Acting Middle East and North Africa Director

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