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Back in June the World was astounded by the news that Saudi Arabia had taken the extremely risky step of legalising female drivers. 

Previously, wise imams like Saad al-Hijri, the highly respected Head of Fatwas (legal opinions) in Saudi Arabia’s Assir governorate, had pointed out the disparity in the brain area given over to spatial awareness in female brains compared to male brains, while other commenters had pointed out the reduced vision that Muslim women wearing the burqa have. 

Nevertheless, despite these very real concerns, Saudi Arabia bowed to Western pressure and legalised female driving. 

Now it seems the country has launched a stealth "road safety" campaign by secretly arresting all the women who pushed for legalising female driving for other, non-specified crimes, and generally discouraging female driving through social pressure.

Many of the activists who pushed for the female right to drive have since been arrested on various trumped up charges or simply no charges.

As reported by the Iranian-owned The Intercept:

At the end of June, the world applauded as women in the kingdom claimed their right to drive for the first time. Meanwhile, al-Hathloul and her colleagues remained incommunicado. Just three days later, Hatoon al-Fassi, a prominent professor of women’s history and longtime advocate for reform, was taken into custody on unknown charges. The following month, two more well-known female activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah, were arrested, despite having largely halted their organizing and online activities after witnessing the crackdown on their peers.

“There’s a feeling now that, even if you’re not an activist, just having an opinion is dangerous.”

In the meantime, other activists fell silent or, along with a growing number of conservatives, academics, journalists, and businesspeople, quietly left the country. “There’s a feeling now that, even if you’re not an activist, just having an opinion is dangerous,” said one human rights advocate, who left the country to avoid detention. “Right now, I don’t have any hope for activism inside the kingdom.” Like many of the activists in this story, The Intercept is withholding the human rights advocate’s name and identifying details at their request, in order to protect them and their family.

While keen to have a good public image in the West so that they can continue bombing the crap out of the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Saudis also deeply care about road safety, especially where it concerns their cherished sheep and camels. 

As these pictures show, a woman driver, dressed in a burqa, is a clear and present danger to livestock in the desert kingdom. 

Technically allowing female driving, while locking up any woman who dares to drive on other charges, is the perfect way for the Saudis to square the circle of appealing to the West while keeping these "girls" safe.


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