July 12, 2005

Saudi woman defies driving ban, saves husband-paper

RIYADH (Reuters) - A Saudi woman defied a ban on women
driving to get her husband urgent medical help after he
collapsed at the wheel, Al-Watan newspaper said on Tuesday.

It said the couple were driving from the eastern city of
Dammam to the capital Riyadh on Sunday night when the man
started having trouble breathing and lost consciousness.

His wife, who had learned to drive on trips to the desert,
jumped behind the wheel and drove 15 km (10 miles) down the
motorway to a petrol station where he was treated.

Women are banned from driving in the conservative Muslim
kingdom, where religious scholars fear it would encourage them
to mix with men outside their family. The ban is enforced in
cities and on main roads but often flouted in rural areas.

A proposal to ease the ban was blocked by the kingdom's
consultative Shura council in May and the powerful interior
minister, Prince Nayef, said the issue is not a priority.

Arab News daily reported on Sunday that a Malaysian woman,
who was unaware of the prohibition, was involved in an accident
in the holy city of Mecca after she lost patience waiting for a
driver and drove off by herself.