The Oct. 26 campaign of Saudi women activists to drive fizzled out Saturday as the government’s threat of arrests appeared to take effect.
Social media websites were abuzz with many bloggers encouraging women to get behind the wheel close to their homes to resuscitate the campaign.
Eyewitnesses said security was tight on the streets of Riyadh on Saturday. The traffic authorities did not register any case of women driving in the country’s major cities despite a few short video clips of women driving in Riyadh and Al-Ahsa on YouTube and Twitter, apparently filmed on Oct. 26.
An unidentified woman in full niqab, who claimed she drove on Najah Street in Al-Ahsa on Saturday morning, said on her YouTube video while driving: “I’m going with my sisters on errands without having to wait for someone to drive us to Alamal Saloon.” As she prepared to stop at a traffic light, she said: “I have a driver’s license and I know how to handle it. There is no danger.”
One of the women, Mai Al-Sawyan, recorded herself driving unnoticed in Riyadh. “I went to the grocery shop near the house … there was a reporter with me,” Al-Sawyan told the BBC. “I know of three other women who also drove.” She hoped the government would soon lift the ban.
There was one official case of a woman driving in the industrial city of Yanbu. The woman, who appeared to be in her mid-twenties, was pulled over by traffic officers while driving her four-wheel-drive vehicle in Sumairi District in the morning. The officers called her father. The angry father said his daughter took the car while other members of the family were sleeping. The Yanbu Traffic Department is investigating the incident.
Saudi activist Loujain Al-Hathlool, a French literature student at the University of British Columbia, Canada, said that the goal of the campaign was not necessarily to drive on Oct. 26, but to keep the momentum going. She thanked the women who took to the streets in their cars.
Activist Eman Al-Nafjan said that the Oct. 26 campaign was “only symbolic,” and set a new date of Nov. 31 even though November only has 30 days. “The campaign proved its point,” she said. Al-Nafjan was detained earlier this month for driving her car in Riyadh.
Activist Manal Al-Sharif, who started a similar campaign in 2011, called on the government to lift the ban. In 2011, Al-Sharif posted a video of her driving a car which resulted in her arrest and nine days imprisonment.
According to a report, more than 60 women claimed to have answered their call to get behind the wheel.
Aziza Youssef, Saudi professor and campaigner, said that the group received 13 videos and another 50 phone messages from women showing or claiming they had driven on Saturday. But she said they had no way of verifying the messages.
Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, could not be reached for comment on Saturday. However, he issued a warning on Thursday, saying that any attempt to drive and join mass protests would be taken seriously by the government.

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