Saudi female who defied motoring ban in fatal accident

Saudi is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. (Getty Images)

A Saudi woman who defied a driving ban in Saudi Arabia has been injured and her companion killed in a car accident, it was reported on Wednesday.

Manal al-Sharif, who was detained for ten days in May after posting a YouTube video of herself driving, was driving in the northern Hael province when her car overturned, AFP said.

“One woman was immediately killed and her companion who was driving the car was hospitalised after she suffered several injuries” police spokesperson Abdulaziz al-Zunaidi told the newswire.

While there is no written law that specifically bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia, senior government clerics have issued several religious edicts that prohibit women from driving.

In May, Saudi woman used the Facebook and Twitter social-networking websites to call for females with international driver’s licenses to use their cars June 17. They said their plan wasn’t a protest.

Al Sharif’s YouTube video attracted more than 500,000 viewers before it was pulled from the video sharing website.

Campaign group, Human Rights Watch, condemned her arrest. “Arresting a woman who drove her family around in a car and then showed it online opens Saudi Arabia to condemnation - and, in fact, to mockery - around the world,” Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement in May.

There have been several accidents in recent years of women being killed in driving accidents, in spite of the ban. A Saudi woman and three of her ten female passengers died in November 2010 when her car overturned in a crash, said AFP.

The wife of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal in June spoke out in support of women lobbying to overturn the kingdom’s ban on female drivers.

Speaking to the Today Show, HH Princess Ameerah Al Taweel said allowing women to drive is one in a list of reforms that must be addressed in Saudi Arabia.

“We’re fighting for our rights and we are getting them. If we were not getting them, you would not see me talking to you now,” she said.

Asked if she wants to be the first woman to drive legally in the kingdom, Princess Ameerah said “Yes. [But] for me, I don’t care if I am the first or the 60th, as long as we drive. It’s a social need but looking at the other side, there are priorities for us women here in Saudi other than driving. We care about laws for women, women in the workforce – basic rights.”

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