A court in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, has sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for defying the kingdom’s ban on female drivers, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
News of the decision came just two days after King Abdullah surprised his ultraconservative nation by announcing that women would be given the right to vote, run for local office and serve on the Shura Council, the king's advisory board.
Human rights activists at the time said the reforms did not go far enough to address the plight of women in a country where they cannot work, marry or travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian -- and can't obtain a driver's license.
"The whole system of women’s subordination to men in Saudi Arabia needs to be dismantled," Philip Luther, an Amnesty International regional deputy director, said in a statement. "Belatedly allowing women to vote in council elections is all well and good, but if they are still going to face being flogged for trying to exercise their right to freedom of movement, then the king’s much-trumpeted 'reforms' actually amount to very little.”
The Associated Press identified the woman sentenced Tuesday as Shaima Ghassaniya. Two other women are believed to be facing charges for driving, one in Jidda and one in Khobar, Amnesty said.
A number of women were arrested over the summer for participating in a campaign protesters organized via Twitter and Facebook urging those who held international driving licenses to start driving on Saudi roads. But this is the first time one of the women has been sentenced.
-- Alexandra Zavis in Los Angeles
Photo: In this June 17 image made from video released by Change.org, a Saudi woman drives a car in Riyadh as part of a campaign to defy the kingdom's ban on women driving. Credit: Change.org