London: The Obama administration has been quietly putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive, according to leaked US embassy cables.
The Guardian reports that the cables, part of the trove allegedly given to WikiLeaks by the US soldier Bradley Manning, reveal previously unreported clashes over women’s rights.
Dispatches from Riyadh describe Saudi Arabia as "the world’s largest women’s prison".
Those words are a quote from one female campaigner US diplomats have been in contact with, Wajeha Al Huwaider.
She too posted a video on YouTube in 2008 of herself driving. Saying millions of Saudi women were prisoners in their homes, she challenged male control over work and travel.
The billionaire tycoon Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal assured a visiting Democrat congressman in July 2009 that King Abdullah did support women`s rights, the embassy noted optimistically. The driving ban was reportedly about to be overturned.
Speaking at his 99-storey Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, Al Waleed said the ban was merely a "demeaning" tribal custom.
His wife has openly requested that women be allowed to drive.
According to US diplomats, the driving ban is something of a charade which "dates from a 1991 fatwa issued by the late grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz.”