Confirmed victory
Petitioning Member of Parliament James Morris MP and 6 others
This petition was delivered to:
Member of Parliament
James Morris MP
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Catherine Ashton
Deputy Spokesperson to HRVP Catherine Ashton
Maja Kocijancic
Chief Spokesperson to HRVP Catherine Ashton
Michael Mann
Press, Media and Strategic Communications Advisor to HRVP Ashton
Darren Ennis
HRVP Ashton media contact
Middle East Advisor
Pelayo Castro Zuzuarregui

Catherine Ashton: Publicly Support Saudi Women's Right to Drive

Dear High Representative Ashton

We are leading Saudi Women’s rights activists and we write this open letter - endorsed by citizens throughout the EU - to express our deep concern over the EU's public silence on the issue of Saudi women's right to drive.

Saudi Arabia is also the only country on earth where women are not allowed to drive, or even ride a bicycle, often dubbed ‘the world's largest women's prison’. As Saudi women our lack of freedom of movement places an extreme burden on our lives. We lack a public transportation system and the most basic errands and medical appointments are missed due to the difficulty and expenses of arranging transportation, notwithstanding educational and work opportunities. Many from our religious establishment openly state that the reason they prohibit women from driving is to keep women at home and in need of men. Our lack of this basic right to drive our own cars has been repeatedly exploited by abusive fathers, brothers, husbands and even hired drivers. Just this week a Saudi woman reported she was raped by her driver.
 
On May 22, 2011, a Saudi technology consultant and mother named Manal al-Sharif was arrested for driving her own car. Unable to find a safe and reliable driver, she was fed up and decided to take a stand not just for herself but for Saudi women across this country. Over the past few days, more than 50,000 people from 156 countries around the world have joined our campaigns calling for Manal to be released and acquitted of all charges. Manal's activism has also led to copycat incidents, with women all over the country posting videos of themselves driving. As momentum grows, we are calling for women across Saudi Arabia to begin driving openly and en masse on June 17. In the context of the Arab Spring and US commitments to support nonviolent movements for democracy, now is the time for EU leaders to show their support for Saudi women's rights.

We were encouraged to see media reports that EU diplomats have quietly pressured the Saudi government over women's rights issues... But given the recent arrests of women trying to drive, now is the time for the EU to show its muscle and make that pressure public.

We write to ask that you make a public statement supporting Saudi women's right to drive. We do not make this request lightly, but we believe that you making a public statement of support for Saudi Arabia opening the country's roads to women would be a game changing moment.

High Representative Ashton, you are a friend. Indeed, some of us have met you personally during your decades-long journey as a champion of women’s rights all over the world.  Now, as we build the largest Saudi women's protest movement in decades, we need your help.

God bless you.

Saudi Women for Driving (سعوديات يطالبن بالقيادة)

 


Letter to
Member of Parliament James Morris MP
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton
Deputy Spokesperson to HRVP Catherine Ashton  Maja Kocijancic
and 4 others
Chief Spokesperson to HRVP Catherine Ashton  Michael Mann
Press, Media and Strategic Communications Advisor to HRVP Ashton  Darren Ennis
HRVP Ashton media contact
Middle East Advisor Pelayo Castro Zuzuarregui
I support the recent letters from Saudi Women for Driving expressing deep concern over your public silence on the issue of Saudi women's right to drive.

Saudi Arabia is the only country on earth where women are not allowed to drive, or even ride a bicycle, often dubbed ‘the world's largest women's prison’. Saudi women's lack of freedom of movement places an extreme burden on their lives. They lack a public transportation system and the most basic errands and medical appointments are missed due to the difficulty and expenses of arranging transportation, notwithstanding educational and work opportunities. Many from the Saudi religious establishment openly state that the reason they prohibit women from driving is to keep women at home and in need of men. Saudi women's lack of this basic right to drive their own cars has been repeatedly exploited by abusive fathers, brothers, husbands and even hired drivers. Earlier this month a Saudi woman reported she was raped by her driver.

On June 17, more Saudi women drove a car than ever before. But as Saudi women launch the largest women’s rights movement in that country's history, where are you when they need you most? In the context of the Arab Spring and EU commitments to support women’s rights, is this not something the EU’s top diplomat would want to publicly support?

I write to echo the calls for you to make a public statement supporting Saudi women's right to drive. Saudi women believe that you making a public statement of support for Saudi Arabia opening the country's roads to women would be a game changing moment.

Women remain barred from driving in Saudi Arabia and this has gone on for way too long. Now, this week, Saudi women really need you to speak up about it.

I look forward to your reply at the responses email below.