On this day in auto history – May 22nd

Sat 22nd May 2021

It was on this day in 2011 that the international spotlight fell on Saudi Arabia’s controversial ban on women drivers following the arrest of leading female activist Manal al-Sharif.

The 32-year-old had already twice incurred the wrath of Saudi authorities for defying the driving ban but, having uploaded a video of herself onto Facebook on the third occasion, she was re-arrested by the country’s religious police and detained for five days on charges of ‘disturbing public order’ and ‘inciting women to drive’.

Ms al-Sharif’s video was watched by over 600,000 people within 24 hours and her high-profile arrest helped draw global condemnation of the draconian Islamic law which forbade women from obtaining driving licenses.

Al-Sharif was to later earn further widespread recognition when Time magazine named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People of the year, whilst she was also honoured at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world where women weren’t allowed to drive but, following a special decree issued by the new King Salman, the law was partially revoked in June 2018.