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Saudi woman seeks driving acceptance on YouTube

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  • Saudi woman asks interior minister to lift restrictions on women drivers
  • Woman takes message to video-sharing Web site YouTube
  • Recent U.N. report blasts Saudi Arabia for widespread discrimination
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From Octavia Nasr
CNN
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(CNN) -- A Saudi woman has posted a video of herself driving on YouTube in an effort to urge the Saudi government to expand the rights of women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

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Wajeha Al-Huwaider and other women are urging Saudi authorities to lift restrictions on women driving.

Wajeha Al-Huwaider has a driver's license, but she is only allowed to drive in rural areas of Saudi Arabia. She said that restriction "paralyzes half the population." She wants authorities to let women drive in Saudi cities.

"On the occasion of this Women's Day, we appeal to our interior minister, his Highness Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, to permit us to drive," Wajeha said on the video in Arabic.

International Women's Day was Saturday. The video, nearly three minutes long, has been viewed about 19,000 times in its first four days on the video sharing site. Video Watch Saudi woman push for driving rights »

Wajeha and 125 other women have signed a petition asking the Saudi interior minister to lift restrictions on women driving in Saudi Arabia. Earlier petitions to the Saudi king went unanswered.

Egyptian columnist Mona El-Tahawy told CNN she believes the new tactic of using YouTube will bear fruit.

"She's protected herself in a way that's very clever and in using YouTube. She's also connected to something that's becoming incredibly powerful in the Arab world, and that's the Internet," El-Tahawy said.

The last time women publicly demanded their right to drive in the ultra-conservative Saudi kingdom was in 1990. Religious police arrested the women drivers and insulted them in public.

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The row was then followed by a fatwa -- a religious edict -- officially banning women from driving in Saudi cities.

Wajeha's sister-in-law rode with her, serving as camera operator.

"For women to drive is not a political issue," Wajeha said as she drove. "It is not a religious issue. It is a social issue, and we know that many women of our society are capable of driving cars. We also know that many families will allow their women to drive."

She said the women who signed the petition would be "willing to assist the government in training other women and helping them obtain their own driver's licenses." The petition-signers hold driver's licenses from a variety of countries.

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Saudi Arabia has often come under criticism for its treatment of women, most recently in a United Nations report that blasted the kingdom for widespread discrimination.

Under Saudi law, women are subject to numerous restrictions, including the prohibition against driving and a requirement that they get a man's permission to travel or have surgery. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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