U.S.: Female drivers an internal matter for Saudi Arabia

July 1, 2011 at 12:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- Washington expresses solidarity with women in Saudi Arabia, but the detention of female drivers is largely an internal matter, the U.S. State Department said.

Women in Saudi Arabia are protesting against a ban on driving privileges by taking to the streets of Riyadh. Five women were arrested last week and held for several hours before being released by the kingdom's religious police.

The women had to sign a pledge vowing to never drive again in order to secure their release, ABC News reports.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said Washington wasn't taking a stance on the activity of the religious police in Saudi Arabia, noting the women were released without charge.

Toner stressed it wasn't a matter of U.S. values in the Muslim world.

"This is about Saudi Arabian women, Saudi women, standing up for their rights, asking to be heard, asking for this fundamental right," he told reporters. "And this isn't necessarily going to be an easy process. We're supportive of this. But this is essentially a Saudi process."

Various female activists using social networking sites on the Internet say they are continuing to drive.

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