The Saudi Women for Driving coalition has launched a Change.org campaign asking automobile company Subaru to pull out of Saudi Arabia until women have the right to drive. The petition is part of an ongoing movement, with origins largely rooted on social media sites, pushing to overturn the kingdom’s ban on female drivers.
The petition, which has accumulated more than 15,000 signatures at the time of writing, addresses the company as one that “loves selling cars to women, and has built up a progressive brand” for itself. The group of Saudi women’s rights activists uses the letter to point out that Subaru sponsors women’s surf festivals, the U.S. Women’s Triatholon Series and the Outstanding Woman in Science Award for the Geological Society of America.
“It’s funny, though, because while Subaru is marketed heavily at women, your company is simultaneously making hundreds of millions selling your cars in the only country on earth where women aren’t allowed to drive,” the petition says, before eventually going on to ask that the company publicly pledge to pull out of Saudi Arabia until women can drive.
“It’s a chance for your company to live up to its brand, and make a huge difference for nearly 13 million of us Saudi women,” the letter concludes.
Mashable has not received an immediate response to an emailed request for comment from Subaru’s headquarters in Saudi capital Riyadh. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Tokyo-based Kenta Matsumoto — a spokesman for Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Subaru’s parent company — says Fuji Heavy and Subaru dealers in Saudi Arabia haven’t received information about any campaigns. Matsumoto told Bloomberg the company only has dealers in Saudi Arabia — no factories — and that annual sales in the country are limited to 300 to 400 units.
This latest petition comes one day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly declared her support of the Saudi women’s driving movement. The secretary — who had also been addressed by a separate Change.org petition, asking for support — was previously said to have been exercising “quiet diplomacy” on the issue. But Clinton made her comments during a Washington news conference Tuesday, shortly after the Saudi Women for Driving released a letter expressing disappointment in her silence on the subject.
The coalition is still waiting to hear from Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, who is also addressed in a petition asking for public support.
While Saudi Arabia has no written law preventing women from getting behind the wheel, religious rulings enforced by the police have been interpreted as a ban. As a result the Women2Drive movement began to surface on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter approximately two months ago, and continued to gain online support through copycat social media pages and international viral YouTube campaigns — like Honk for Saudi Women — even after a key organizer was arrested and jailed for a few days.
The Women2Drive movement called for Saudi women with international licenses, or licenses from other countries, to drive on the country’s streets June 17. Approximately 45 did, tweeting images and posting YouTube videos capturing the event. As Eman Al Nafjan, a Saudi female blogger, told Mashable, there is some possibility that women will drive on dates after June 17. Some tweets and videos posted since indicate that this is indeed the case.
Image courtesy of Flickr, David Villarreal Fernández
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