Needless to say, her actions did not sit well with the Saudi authorities, who arrested and jailed her. A wave of public support for her case followed, although a counter-movement also arose on Facebook that advocated punishing women drivers.
Now the uppity driver has been released from jail, although she had to recant and grovel to the House of Saud to earn her “freedom”. Saudi women’s prisons, with their all-male guards, are probably not the most hospitable of environments for a middle-class professional woman. And, since the prisoner was a divorced mother, and therefore not a virgin, she could not be sexually assaulted while in custody. Whatever might happen to her inside, it couldn't possibly be called rape.
So she groveled and got out. According to ANSAmed:
Saudi Arabia: Female Driver Released, Stated Her Repentance
(ANSAmed) — Rome, May 31 — Manal Al Sharif, the Saudi mother who was arrested on May 21 after being filmed at the wheel and publicly challenging the regime on the ban on female drivers, was released by the police of Alkhobar, her home city. However she had to pay a heavy price: in effect, according to a report by Arab News, Manal promised that she will not join the demonstration of Saudi female drivers that she had personally called for June 17, and officially excused herself for breaking the law. Manal retracted her statements in a letter addressed to king Abdullah, Custodian of the two Sacred Mosques.
Manal’s case and, along with hers, the case of a group of Saudi women determined to gain the right to drive ended up on papers and websites all over the world. The woman, who became the symbol of the revolt against the too many bans imposed in the name of an ultraconservative Islam, had been renamed the Saudi ‘Rosa Parks’, in homage to the famous black lady who, by refusing to give up her seat to a white man, started off the battle for racial equality in the United States in the 1950s.
Manal, age 32, divorced with a child, works as an IT expert with Saudi Aramco. Within the ample premises of the oil company women are allowed to drive, but they cannot go out, which Manala instead did to take her child to school. On Youtube she explained that she had no choice, insofar as she lacked the money to hire a driver.
During her stay in jail more than 3,000 Saudi citizens signed an appeal to ask the king to set her free and to make a clear decision on the women’s right to drive. On her Facebook page, Manal received some 25,000 messages expressing support and solidarity. However, on the other hand the Saudi ultraconservatives launched a campaign against June 17, inviting men to take to the streets and beat any females caught driving a car.
It seems likely that the “Beat Those Uppity Women” movement has been given a real boost by Manal’s repentance and recantation. Now that she is safely in her place, the pious males of the Kingdom can concentrate on sending the rest of their recalcitrant wives and daughters back into the kitchen to rattle them pots and pans.
Hat tip: Insubria.