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Saudi women put themselves in driving seat over car ban

A SAUDI woman defiantly drove through the nation's capital yesterday while others brazenly cruised by police patrols in the first forays of a campaign that hopes to ignite a road rebellion against the male-only driving rules in the ultraconservative kingdom.

It was a rare grass-roots challenge to the Western-backed Saudi monarchy as it tries to ride out the Arab world's wave of change, and a lesson in how the uprisings are taking root in different ways.

In this case, the driver's seat was turned into a powerful platform for women's rights in a country where they have almost no political voice.

"We've seen that change is possible," said Maha al-Qahtani, a computer specialist.

She said she drove for 45 minutes around the capital, Riyadh, with her husband in the passenger seat. "This is Saudi women saying, 'This is our time to make a change.'"

About 40 women took part in the show of defiance. No arrests or violence were immediately reported, though al-Qahtani was later ticketed for driving without a licence.

Officials could either order a crackdown on the women or give way to the demands at the risk of angering clerics and other conservative groups.

Irish Independent