Women protest Saudi driving ban

A poster at the protest merges an iconic American image with traditional Muslim clothing.

A small group of women rallied outside the Saudi embassy Wednesday to protest the kingdom’s ban on female drivers.

“They have international support, that we do believe in them. We do believe that women have the right to drive,” said Moshtayeen Ahmad, one of the protesters.

The Institute for Gulf Affairs, which is sponsoring Wednesday's rally, accuses Saudi Arabia of a system of gender apartheid that oppresses women - most noticeably by refusing to allow women behind the wheel.

Manal al-Sharif was arrested and jailed last month in Saudi Arabia when she posted a video of herself driving on YouTube.

Saudi women must hire drivers, or depend on male relatives to get around. The monarchy claims the ban is required under Islamic rules.

“Islam has nothing to do with it. Islam actually encourages women to be individual, to be able to move and to decide for themselves,” said Ali Al Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs.

“They're doing it because of politics. They want to maintain their power,” Al Ahmed said.

The demonstrators wanted to express support for a planned nationwide protest in Saudi Arabia Friday.

With reporting from the Associated Press.

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