Saudi police have penalised a woman filmed driving a car, a spokesman said Monday, warning against violations of a ban on female drivers set to be lifted next June.
Authorities summoned and briefly detained the woman before booking her for flouting traffic regulations after she appeared in a video driving out of a luxury hotel in the capital Riyadh.
‘We call on all Saudi citizens to respect the law and wait until the ban on women driving formally ends,’ the police spokesman said.
He did not specify the nature of the penalty but added that the woman, who has not been named, was not arrested despite being filmed leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel.
He said the owner of the car was separately booked for violating traffic regulations.
The state-linked Sabq news website reported that the woman’s male guardian – who is typically a woman’s father or husband – was then asked to sign a pledge that she wouldn’t violate traffic regulations again.
Saudi Arabia last month said it would allow women to obtain driving permits under a royal decree to take effect in June, sparking euphoria and disbelief among activists who long fought the ban.
The Gulf kingdom was the only country in the world to bar women from taking the wheel, a ban seen globally as a symbol of repression.
Many women fear they are still easy prey for conservatives in a nation where male ‘guardians’ have arbitrary authority to take decisions on their behalf.
‘The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,’ the Saudi Press Agency said last month.
Saudi’s ambassador to the US confirmed women will not need permission from their male guardians in order to apply for a licence.
The US State Department said it welcomed the decision, calling it a ‘huge step in the right direction’.
It comes after years of campaigning from within the country, and pressure from the international community.
Saudi King Salman has issued a royal decree which will allow women to hold driving licences for the first time from June next year
She was arrested and detained for 73 days before being released.
Ms al-Hathloul was re-arrested this year at King Fahad International Airport. While no official reason was given for her detention, it is believed to be related to her ongoing human rights work.
Amnesty International said at the time that she had been denied access to a lawyer and had not been allowed to contact her family.
It also comes after the Muslim kingdom was elected to the United Nations women’s rights commission, despite a terrible record on the issue.
The decision was derided by observers around the world and prompted an outpouring of scorn from rights groups.