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Dec 7, 2014 11:53 AM

Saudi extends detention of women drivers

The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Two Saudi women detained nearly a week ago for violating the kingdom's female driving ban were ordered held for 25 more days on Sunday, a relative told The Associated Press.

The women, who were arrested Dec. 1 after driving into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates, are supporters of a grassroots campaign launched last year to oppose the ban. The two women have a combined Twitter following of more than 355,000.

Organizers behind the Oct. 26 campaign say the ban on women driving underpins wider issues regarding guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia that give men powerful sway over women's lives.

Loujain al-Hathloul, 25, set out to defy the kingdom's ban on women driving by crossing into her country from the UAE.

The kingdom's hardline interpretation of Islam holds that allowing women to drive encourages licentiousness. No such ban exists in the rest of the Muslim world, including Saudi Arabia's conservative Gulf neighbors.

In a video uploaded to YouTube Nov. 30, al-Hathloul filmed herself driving toward the Saudi border in what she said was "an effort to sustain the campaign for women's driving."

"She wanted to highlight the absurdity" of not being allowed to drive into her own country, an activist said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal.

Saudi border guards confiscated al-Hathloul's passport and kept her at the border for nearly 24 hours.

Maysa al-Amoudi, 33, arrived the next day to deliver food, water and a blanket to al-Hathloul, her sister Hannah al-Amoudi said.

Human Rights Watch said both women were then detained apparently for driving, though it is not clear if they will face criminal charges.

Al-Amoudi said authorities notified the family on Sunday that they were extending her sister's detention another 25 days. They did not provide the legal reasons for holding her.

Al-Hathloul is in a correctional facility for juveniles and al-Amoudi is in a prison. The women have been interrogated without the presence of an attorney, but were allowed to see relatives and speak to relatives on the phone.

There was no official Saudi comment on the arrests.



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