A video parodying the Bob Marley song "No Woman No Cry" to support the women's driving campaign in Saudi has gone viral, racking up nearly seven million views since it was posted to YouTube on Saturday.
"No Woman, No Drive" includes superb lyrics including, "your feet is your only carriage, but only inside the house—and when I say it I mean it."
The video was created by Hisham Fageeh, Fahad Albutairi, and Alaa Wardi, who belong to the Saudi entertainment collective Telfaz11. The group has been on the front lines of Saudi Arabia's recent YouTube-abetted "comedic revolution," and supports the successful Saudi YouTube sketch series La Yekthar.
"We just wanted to do something relevant and funny," Fageeh, the 26-year-old, Riyadh-based comedian, told Mother Jones.
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On Saturday, Saudi women took to their cars to defy the ban by taking part in a mass driving protest.
The women-led driving campaign – only the third of its kind since 1990 – urged the Saudi government to issue a decree lifting the country’s ban on women drivers.
One female activist involved in the campaign told the human rights charity Amnesty International: “This is a natural right for us, a most simple and basic right, it relates to our freedom of movement. [The right to drive] will empower women and give us a sense of control over our lives.”
But the Saudi Ministry of Interior responded “firmly and with force," with a report on sabq.org, a Saudi news website, reporting six women had been stopped for driving by Riyadh police.
Nevertheless, brave Saudi women have said they would keep up their campaign after the stark government warnings and heavy police presence thwarted their call for many to get behind the wheel.
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Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said it is "astonishing that in the 21st century the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to deny women the right to legally drive a car."
“The driving ban is inherently discriminatory and demeaning to women and must be overturned immediately. It is completely unacceptable for the authorities to stand in the way of activists planning to campaign against it.
“Instead of repressing the initiative, the authorities must immediately lift the ban to ensure that women are never again arrested or punished simply for being behind the wheel of a car.”
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are prevented from driving.
Allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia would mean no more virgins and an increase in homosexuality, according to academics at Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, Majlis al-Ifta' al-A'ala, it was reported in the Telegraph in 2011.
More pornography would be used if women were allowed on the roads and rates of prostitution and divorce would also rise, the report added.
Although there is no official law banning women from driving, a 1990 ministerial decree formalised an existing customary ban and women who attempt to drive face arrest.
At present Saudi women are dependent on men to carry out simple daily tasks requiring transport. They also need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.
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