Five years ago, a video was posted on YouTube and Facebook that meant police would detain a woman for six hours. This video, with an audience of over 600,000 people, would be deleted in its original location. It’s shocking content? A woman driving around the streets of the city Khobar in Saudi Arabia. Manal Al-Sharif, women’s rights activist and computer scientist, was the driver.


Saudi Arabia has long had many restrictive laws when it comes to women: for starters, all women must have a male guardian, whether this be a father, husband or even a son. This has been under scrutiny for some time, with a petition being signed by thousands for the abolishment of the law only a couple of months ago. It is also the only country in the world to completely forbid women from driving a car. In 2007, two other women’s rights activists Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Uyyouni founded the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia – it was al-Huwaider that would film Manal driving four years later. A second drive led to her arrest, where she was kept for nine days. Her arrest was not to be the worst of troubles surrounding her activism – her endeavour to help women has been answered with resistance in a number of ways: from being fired as an Internet Security Consultant to death threats to her rumoured death in a car crash being picked up by various media outlets. Despite this, her drive to oppose the rules that have binded her and womankind for so long in Saudi Arabia have meant she has powered through, working on campaigns for female prisoners in Dammam women’s prison and My Right To Dignity, a movement to ‘restore all of Saudi women’s rights’ [1]. Why? There are few things more powerfully inspiring than a woman fighting for other women despite the consequences of doing so, and Manal Al-Sharif is now recognised internationally as a force to be reckoned with. Her determination to change current constraints on women in Saudi Arabia has motivated the thousands that viewed her YouTube debut, and has spawned a multitude of women taking to the streets to drive.

'A child cannot be free if his/her mother is not free. A husband cannot be free if his wife is not free. The society is nothing if women are nothing’ - Manal Al-Sharif

Image source: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2111975_2111976_2112132,00.html