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Public Statements

Letter to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud

July 26, 2011

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

Dear King Abdullah:

As women members of the United States Senate, we write in support of the increasing number of Saudi women and men calling for the removal of the driving ban on women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As you know, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world with such a ban on women driving, and maintaining such a restriction stands in stark contrast with the commitments your government has made to promote the rights of Saudi women.

We appreciate that the government of Saudi Arabia has taken steps to advance women's rights. For example, we were pleased to see the appointment of the first woman deputy minister in Saudi Arabia and the establishment of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology--the only university in Saudi Arabia that allows women to study alongside men and where women are allowed to drive motor vehicles on campus. These are important steps, but more must be done and lifting the driving ban would be a critical step forward.

In June 2009, the government of Saudi Arabia accepted the majority of the recommendations put forward by the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, including to "[a]bolish all legislation, measures and practices that discriminate against womenÂ… In particular, to abolish legislation and practices which prevent women from participating fully in society on an equal basis with men, includingÂ… limitations on freedom of movement, the prohibition on women driving and restricted access by women to work, public places and commercial facilities."

Given this commitment, we strongly believe it is time to abolish the prohibition on women driving once and for all, especially in light of Saudi Arabia's role as a newly elected member of the board of UN Women--an entity dedicated to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women worldwide.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state." And according to the Arab Charter on Human Rights which Saudi Arabia ratified in April 2009, "Every individual residing within the territory of a State shall have the right to liberty of movement." The prohibition on women driving motor vehicles, even in cases of emergency, makes it impossible for citizens to exercise a basic human right.

We strongly urge you to reconsider this ban and take an important step toward affording Saudi women the rights they deserve.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Mary L. Landrieu
United States Senator

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Patty Murray
United States Senator

Olympia Snowe
United States Senator

Claire McCaskill
United States Senator

Barbara Mikulski
United States Senator

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator

Debbie Stabenow
United States Senator

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

Kay Hagan
United States Senator

Susan Collins
United States Senator


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