In a brave act of civil disobedience, women across Saudi Arabia will get behind the wheel this week to demand equal rights.
The #Women2Drive protest, now scheduled for Friday 29 June, is being organised online by women inspired by the reforms won both at home and in other countries since the start of the Arab spring.
Saudi Arabia is the only country that bans women from driving: now, the efforts of a few brave activists have pushed this issue to the forefront of the movement to end the country's legally sanctioned sexism.
'Time for us to be the driving seat'
As revolutions toppled authoritarian rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, Saudi rulers responded to growing dissent within the kingdom with modest reforms. A royal decree issued by King Abdullah in September 2011 gave women the right to vote and to run for local office – the changes will come into effect in 2015.
But Saudi law remains shockingly sexist, allowing women far fewer rights than men. Legal guardianship of women by a man – usually a husband or father – is still a part of every woman's daily life in Saudi Arabia, regardless of age or status. Judges have generally required women to have a guardian's permission to marry, divorce, work, travel, study or make any decision about their children. The World Economic Forum ranks Saudi Arabia 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity.
Now, women are fighting back. This week's event will be the second annual protest organised by a loosely co-ordinated group of Saudi women. Last year, scores drove in defiance of the ban, after a single mother, Manal al-Sharif, spent nine days in jail for posting a video of herself driving on YouTube.
Sharif's story shows just how far there is to go: this year, she will stay at home for fear of retribution against her family. She has already given up her job at the state-owned oil company in order to speak at a human rights conference in Norway last month.
... And enjoy: Pop star MIA and a team of hijab-wearing women drag-racers riffing brilliantly on the madness of Saudi driving laws, in the video for her single Bad Girls: