On the eve of new driving law, Saudi officials label women “traitors” for promoting gender equality

After years of being denied driver’s licenses for all kinds of crazy reasons, Saudi Arabian women will finally be allowed to get behind the wheels of their cars next month. Many women in the country are ecstatic, but the government is taking action against those pushing for additional reforms. The BBC reports:

Just weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift its ban on women driving, the kingdom’s state security said Saturday it had detained seven people who are being accused of working with “foreign entities.” Rights activists say all those detained had worked in some capacity on women’s rights issues, with five of those detained among the most prominent and outspoken women’s rights campaigners in the country…

When the kingdom issued its royal decree last year announcing that women would be allowed to drive in 2018, women’s rights activists were contacted by the royal court and warned against giving interviews to the media or speaking out on social media.

Following the warnings, some women left the country for a period of time and others stopped voicing their opinions on Twitter.

As activists were pressured into silence, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old heir to the throne stepped forth, positioning himself as the force behind the kingdom’s reforms.

Human Rights Watch says, however, the crown prince’s so-called reform campaign “has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment.”

In other words, the government is saying, “Be thankful for what you get, and don’t ask for more.”

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