Despite King’s Edict, Saudi Woman Sentenced to 10 Lashings for Driving

International outcry arose this September when, just a day after Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah announced a commitment to women’s rights and granted women voting rights in 2015, a woman named Shaima Jastaina was sentenced to 10 lashings for driving to the hospital. There is no specific law making it illegal for women in Saudi Arabia to drive, but a de facto ban often leads to women being punished for doing so. After global outrage, the King overturned the sentence.

Yesterday, however, a judge identified as Abdul Majid Al-Luhaidan summoned Jastaina to court and reinstated the sentence. According to an activist with Saudi women’s rights group Right2Dignity, because the judge sentenced Jastaina against direct orders from the King, she might not be lashed, but it’s still a possibility. An appeal prepared by a lawyer for the group will be filed this month, but again the effect is uncertain: It could result in a judge overturning the decision, but could also provoke more punishment for Jastaina.

Additionally, a human rights activist has posted a note online from the Saudi Ministry of Information revealing that two female Saudi journalists who covered Jastaina’s story have been sued for “affecting the national cohesion” and raising “confusion among citizens.” Two other women drivers will face trial later this month.

You can join several powerful global campaigns in support of Saudi women’s right to drive. Go here to email world leaders, go here to petition the White House, and sign below to contact King Abdullah:

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*** If you support Saudi women’s right to drive, participate in the viral Honk for Saudi Women video campaign. Say you support Saudi women’s driving rights, honk, upload the video to YouTube, and send the link to Your video will join others from supporters worldwide on the channel ***

Photo of Saudi Arabian woman from Flickr user Retlaw Snellac under Creative Commons 2.0.


Holly L. Derr is the Head of Graduate Directing at the University of Memphis and a feminist media critic who uses the analytical tools of theater to reflect upon broader issues of culture, race and gender. Follow her @hld6oddblend.