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Saudi Facebook Campaign Calls for Men to Beat Women Drivers

Saudi Women Driving

Manal al-Sherif, a 32-year-old woman who posted a video of herself on Facebook and YouTube behind the wheel while driving in the eastern city of Khobar last week, was expected to be released on Friday after five days in jail on charges of driving without a license, according to her attorney, Adnan Al-Saleh. (YouTube)

A campaign on Facebook is calling for Saudi men to beat women who plan to drive cars in a protest next month, AFP reports.

"The Iqal Campaign: June 17 for preventing women from driving" advocates a cord be used to beat women who plan to drive. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Some 6,000 people have "liked" the campaign on Facebook.

It was created in response to female activist Manal al-Sharif, who created a page calling for Saudi women to defy the driving ban on June 17. 

The Facebook page, called "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself," was removed after more than 12,000 people indicated their support. The campaign's Twitter account also was deactivated.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

The issue is a highly emotional one in the kingdom, where women are also not allowed to vote, or even travel without their husbands' or fathers' permission.

About 800 Saudi people have signed a petition urging Saudi King Abdullah to release al-Sherif and to make a clear statement on women's right to drive.

"We are fed up," Waleed Aboul Khair, a lawyer and rights activists said. "Be frank," he said, addressing the country's rulers. "For the first time in the history of the kingdom, we have hundreds of people calling for the king to be frank."

"The society has moved. The society is not silent anymore," Aboul Khair said.

There is no written Saudi law banning women from driving, only fatwas, or religious edicts, by senior clerics that are enforced by police. King Abdullah has promised reforms in the past and has taken some tentative steps to ease restrictions on women. But the Saudi monarchy relies on Wahhabi clerics to give religious legitimacy to its rule and is deeply reluctant to defy their entrenched power.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.