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Saudi women defy threats, drive

AFP-JIJI

Only a few Saudi women braved official threats of retribution and got behind the wheel Saturday in defiance of a ban on female drivers, but organizers said their campaign will continue.

Undeterred by warnings of unspecified sanctions and increased security in Riyadh, several women posted videos of themselves driving Saturday. At least four videos were uploaded to YouTube, including footage from the capital, and rights activist Naseema Assada said three others had driven in Eastern province to display women’s “determination” on the issue.

Activists had originally issued a call on social media networks for women across the kingdom to drive their vehicles Saturday to challenge the ban.

“Had there not been a threat from the Interior Ministry, more women would have responded,” said Assada.

More women are expected behind the wheel in the coming days if authorities take no measures against those who defied the ban Saturday.

Activists say Saturday was chosen as a “symbolic” date as part of efforts first launched more than a decade ago to press for the right to drive. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are barred from doing so, and public gatherings are also officially banned.