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Saudi women get behind the wheel to protest driving ban

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JEREMY HOBSON: In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. If they have jobs they often use the nation’s limited public transit system or pay for expensive taxis to get to work. Well today, a social media campaign has sparked a nationwide protest of driving restrictions. Women are driving. And some men are reportedly dressing up as women to confuse the authorities.

Dr. Fawziah Al-Bakr is a professor at King Saud University and she’s with us now from Riyadh. Good morning.

FAWZIAH AL-BAKR: Good morning.

HOBSON: Well, tell us what’s going on there today across Saudi Arabia.

AL-BAKR: It’s an interesting day today because women around Saudi Arabia are trying to organize, you know, a movement to go out and drive. I’ll drive my car — that’s the slogan of this day.

HOBSON: Tell us about the role that social media has played in this movement today.

AL-BAKR: It’s huge, definitely. And especially that Saudi Arabia provides a lot of communications — the infrastructure for communication. And about 95 percent of the people have mobile phones which connect to the Internet. The Saudis spend about 152 minutes every single day using the Internet. More than what they watch TV or listen to the radio.

HOBSON: Do you think any major changes will come of this protest?

AL-BAKR: I don’t know. We’ve been saying this for the last 20 years and every time we say, “OK, it’s coming,” but it’s not come. There is definitely nothing in religion — Islamic religion — preventing women from driving. But then maybe some people find it social unacceptable and that’s fine. We’re talking here about freedom of choice. No body will be forced to drive. But if I want to drive, I should have the right to drive if I want to.

HOBSON: Dr. Fawziah Al-Bakr is a professor of education at King Saud University in Riyadh. Thank you so much for joining us.

AL-BAKR: Thank you.

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