Saudi Arabia warned that it will take measures against women who plan to defy the driving ban on October 26 after activists called on women to get behind the wheel.
Following confusion after a statement that was published on Wednesday, Ministry of Interior spokesman Mansour al-Turki told several media outlets today that women driving is banned.
“It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support” he said according to AFP.
This was the first time for the government to say explicitly that women driving is banned. Saudi official used to say in the past that women driving is a social matter and that laws in the kingdom do not ban it.
Activists also said that they have received phone calls on Thursday from another ministry official warning them against driving.
“My wife has received on her cellphone a call from the Interior Minister’s office warning her against driving tomorrow and that if she does they will enforce the laws against her,” activist Waleed Abu Alkhair said on Twitter.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International called on the Saudi government to respect the right of women to drive.
Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the organization, said in a statement “it is astonishing that in the 21st century the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to deny women the right to legally drive a car.”
“The driving ban is inherently discriminatory and demeaning to women and must be overturned immediately,” he said.