Posted Sep 29, 2011 01:50 pm CDT
Updated: A woman who defied a religious and cultural ban by driving in Saudi Arabia was initially sentenced to 10 lashes in a landmark case in the ultraconservative Muslim county.
It is the first time a court has upheld the rule against women drivers, which previously had been more informally enforced by religious police obtaining promises from women not to drive again, reports the Times of India.
However, the woman driver, whose name is variously spelled as Shaima Jastaina and Sheima Jastaniah and is in her 30s, quickly had her sentence for driving without government permission revoked by King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, reports the Jerusalem Post.
Her sentencing comes in the midst of a women’s rights campaign that very recently resulted in a promise from King Abdullah that women would soon be granted the right to vote. However, some observers had viewed that as a lesser power than the ability to drive. And the severe sentence for Jastaina is seen as a retaliatory response to voting rights by the conservative religious establishment that controls the courts, according to the Times of India.
Interviewed by telephone by the newspaper before a tweet from a Saudi princess yesterday alerted the media to the revoked sentence, Sohila Zein el-Abydeen said: “Our king doesn’t deserve that.” She is a well-known member of the government’s National Society for Human Rights.
She cried as she discussed Jastaina’s case, saying “The verdict is shocking to me, but we were expecting this kind of reaction.”
ABAJournal.com: “Right to Vote Is On the Horizon for Women in Saudi Arabia, But Driving Ban Is Still Being Enforced”
Associated Press: “Saudi authorities to try woman for driving”
Updated at 10:07 a.m. to include news of revoked sentence.