One person can change the world. That's the motto and inspiration behind the Saudi Arabian Women2Drive movement that is calling for Saudi women to challenge the culturally held belief that they cannot get behind the wheel. Supporters of the movement took to Facebook and Twitter to convey their message, and today some women got in the driver's seat for the first time.
Reports from Twitter and The Guardian say that some women have been detained by police while other female drivers have gone unnoticed. Manal al-Sharif, a famous Saudi women's rights activist and one of the leaders behind the movement, has been compared to Rosa Parks. Detained last month for driving by Saudi police, it's her story that sparked the Women2Drive campaign.
Al-Sharif was detained for a week in May when she was arrested for driving. Here's a compelling video, with English subtitles, that shows her talking with a friend about their right to drive.
Supporters of the movement remain cautiously optimistic. Women have been civilly-disobeying the religious edict that keeps them from driving since the 1990s, but still nothing has changed. There was also an effort in 2008 on International Women's Day to get women to challenge authority, and while many did, the no-driving policy is still upheld in their country.
Change, it would seem, comes slowly. While the Women2Drive Facebook page has over 6,000 "likes", so too does its competitor: A Facebook page calling for men to beat women who drove today also had over 6,000 fans. It's since been taken down due to its violent content.
The "freedom drivers" do not have an easy, open road ahead of them. As Saudi Arabia remains one the world's most oppressive places for women, each small protest, each tiny tweet, and each Facebook fan of Saudi women's rights become more and more important as women join together to chip away at the rock of autocracy.
One tweeter warned about how far the country still has to go. Jason Burke, a correspondent for The Guardian, tweeted that we should realize it's only a few dozen women who are taking part in Women2Drive and are behind the wheel. The population of Saudi Arabia is around 27 million.
What are your thoughts on Women2Drive?
Photo via retlaw snellack/Flickr