Meet one of the activists who pushed to end the Saudi Arabian ban on women driving.

In September, Saudi Arabia lifted a long-running national policy that banned women from driving. Overnight, Saudi Arabian women took a small if significant step toward equality.

The lift on the restriction has been cited as an example of the modernization efforts of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (The Crown Prince is also busily consolidated power: A state anti-corruption committee arrested a group of high powered ministers and businessmen last week.) But activist women have been campaigning for the right to drive for years. Though driving by women is not technically illegal, it has been banned in practice. Many have risked arrest and imprisonment by defiantly driving and using social media to bring attention to the cause.

An activist at the forefront of this movement is Manal al-Sharif. On May 21, 2011, al-Sharif filmed herself driving while her brother sat in the car’s passenger’s seat in Khobar. Al-Sharif had been promoting the Women2Drive campaign on social media and had already posted a video of herself driving on YouTube a few days earlier. The next morning at 2 am, she was arrested and interrogated by police. She was held in jail for nine days, and released only after her father appealed directly to the King. Al-Sharif continued to advocate for women’s rights in the years following her arrest.

The following excerpt from al-Sharif’s new book Daring to Drive recounts the night of her arrest.


The secret police came for me at 2 in the morning. The second knock on the door quickly followed the first. They were loud, hard knocks, the kind that radiate out and shake the doorframe. My 5-year-old son was asleep, but I was awake still, sitting up with my brother.

Startled, my brother jumped up and rushed Read More Here