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Saoudie demonstration against women who want to drive

150 clerics organized a rare event Tuesday before the palace of the king of Saudi Arabia to denounce the recent efforts of a group of activists claiming the right for women to drive a car in the kingdom.

Some influential religious leaders who demonstrated outside the Palace of Jeddah on the Red Sea, have said that the United States were behind the campaign urging Saudi women to get behind the wheel on October 26, an initiative that would gather 16,000 signatures .

The Saudi government has not represses the campaign activists until now, and King Abdullah would favor a certain social reforms. The manifestation of religious leaders, who are among the most influential people in Saudi Arabia shows the challenges that confront the king wanting to initiate progressive reforms without alienating the more conservative segments of the population.

The Saudi religious establishment, known for its conservatism, has an influence on the judicial system and oversees directed by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which applies a strict separation of the sexes and other religious police restrictive interpretations of Islamic law.

Since the launch of the campaign for the right to drive last month, many Saudi women have published videos and sharing pictures of them driving a car. A number of women members of the Senior Advisory Board of the kingdom, the Shura Council, have also presented this month an application meeting to discuss the issue, but no debate has not yet occurred.

Although Islamic law and Saudi law does not specifically prohibit women from driving, Saudi women do not have the right to obtain a license.

Women have tried to lead in recent years in the kingdom, but some were arrested and charged with disturbing public order. One woman in particular was sentenced to 10 lashes, but King Abdullah has granted his forgiveness.

No Saudi woman who was trying to drive has been arrested in the course of the last few weeks, suggesting that the authorities have adopted a more moderate approach.

Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy

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