Saudi activists said more than 60 women claimed to have answered their call on Saturday to get behind the wheel in a rare show of defiance against a ban on female driving in the ultraconservative kingdom.
Saudi professor and campaigner Aziza Youssef said the group has received 13 videos and another 50 phone messages from women showing or claiming they had driven. She said they have no way to verify the messages.
If the numbers are accurate, this year's campaign is the most successful effort yet by Saudi women demanding the right to drive. Youssef said they have not received any reports of arrests or women being ticketed by police. A security official said that authorities did not arrest or fine any female drivers on Saturday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
However, there have been a few roadblocks along the way. Youssef said she and four other prominent women activists received phone calls this week from a top official with close links to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, warning them not to drive on Saturday, the day the campaign set for women's driving.
She also said that two suspicious cars'' have been following her everywhere all day. "I don't know from which party they are from. They are not in a government car," she said.
Though no specific Saudi law bans women from driving, women are not issued licenses. They mostly rely on drivers or male relatives to move around. Powerful clerics who hold far-reaching influence over the monarchy enforce the driving ban, warning that breaking it will spread licentiousness. A prominent cleric caused a stir when he said last month that medical studies show that driving a car harms a woman's ovaries.
The kingdom's first major driving protest came in 1990 when some 50 women drove their cars. They were jailed for a day, had their passports confiscated and lost their jobs. In June 2011, about 40 women got behind the wheel in several cities in a protest sparked when a woman was arrested after posting a video of herself