Clinton: Saudi women "brave," "right" to protest
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday declared her support for Saudi women who defied a driving ban as part of a protest last week, dpa reported.
Clinton emphasized that the action on Friday, in which about 70 women drivers took to the streets, was launched by Saudi women themselves and was not the result of foreign influence.
"What these women are doing is brave, and what they are seeking is right," she said.
Clinton was answering a reporter's question about why she had remained silent since Friday on the women's protest. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington that Clinton had received a letter with a direct request that she speak out.
"I am moved by (the action), and I support them, but I want to underscore the fact that this is not coming from outside of their country. This is the women themselves seeking to be recognized," Clinton said.
Dozens of activists launched the Women2Drive campaign calling for mass driving to protest the ban. Although there is no law that bans women from driving, licenses are not issued to women - making it de facto illegal for them to drive.
The 70 women who drive were mostly accompanied by a relative. None was apparently stopped by security officers or the religious police, unlike a protest in 1990 that got women arrested and severely punished.
In May, one of the organizers, Manal al-Sharif, was detained for 10 days, after posting a video of herself driving and urging other women to drive.
Clinton noted that the mobility of being able to drive "provides access to economic opportunity including jobs, which does fuel growth and stability."
"And it's also important for just day-to-day life, to say nothing of the necessity from time to time to transport children for various needs and sometimes even emergencies," she said.