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Saudi Woman Accuses Chauffeur of Rape Amid Row

Posted on 02 June 2011 by hashimilion

A Saudi businesswoman, forced by law to hire a male driver, has accused her chauffeur of raping her, a newspaper reported Wednesday amid a growing campaign to allow women to drive themselves.

The daily Okaz said the driver stopped the car in an industrial part of the holy western city of Medina and raped her while threatening to shoot her with his pistol.

The woman, who was not named, reported the attack and the driver, whose nationality was not given, was arrested.

The report coincides with an intensifying campaign to bring a change of law so that women can obtain a driving licence and drive legally. Activists have called on women to drive their cars in a protest rally on June 17.

Earlier this week, Saudi authorities decided to free on bail Manal al-Sharif who was detained for 10 days for breaking the ultra-conservative kingdom’s ban on women driving, her lawyer said.

“We were informed today of the decision to free Manal on bail. The procedural steps towards her release are under way,” Adnan al-Saleh told AFP, adding he hoped the case would now be closed.

Sharif had called upon King Abdullah to release her, Saleh told AFP on Sunday after meeting his client in prison.

The woman, a 32-year-old computer-security consultant, was arrested on May 22 after posting on YouTube a video of herself driving her car around the eastern Saudi city of Khobar.

The divorced mother of one explained in the video that getting around was often a headache. Women in Saudi Arabia without the means to hire a chauffeur must depend on the goodwill of male family members to drive them.

Her arrest sparked debate about women’s rights within the kingdom.

A Facebook page titled “We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women’s rights,” on Sunday had more than 24,000 supporters.

However, another Facebook page called on men to use “iqals” — the cords used with traditional headdresses by many Gulf men — to beat Saudi women who drive their cars in the planned June 17 protest.

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