Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) and five other Congresswomen wrote Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman who was jailed for nine days for the offense of driving, to offer encouragement and moral support in her efforts to overturn Saudi Arabia's ban on women drivers. The arrest and jail term sparked much online debate and dissent in Saudi Arabia, and a protest was held outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC today.
The lawmakers wrote:
"We have been following your story with great interest as you pursue your campaign against the Saudi kingdom's driving ban. Your efforts on behalf of Saudi women, who only wish to protect themselves, are inspiring and we wish to extend our heartfelt admiration and support.
From our experience, it has been clear that expanding opportunities for women not only improves their position in society, but also has a positive impact on economic growth and burgeoning democracies. The campaign you are waging in Saudi Arabia is a testament to this truth, while raising awareness and highlighting the need for action on the fundamental right of equality for all.
Guaranteeing human rights for women is inextricably linked to a larger struggle for peace, development, and uniting for meaningful change. We strongly believe we owe it to the women of the world to shine a spotlight on the status of their rights in an effort to improve them and believe your actions do just that.
As Members of Congress, we proudly stand in solidarity with you and all Saudi women you represent as you pursue your goals and wish to offer our support in helping to bolster your efforts to empower Saudi women. We look forward to following your progress."
Six women lawmakers signed the letter of support: Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Doris Matsui (D-CA)."