A coalition of Saudi women will petition King Abdullah for the right to drive on Sept. 23, the Saudi National Day. The petition, with over 200 signatures, demands that the king return “that which has been stolen from women,” the right of free movement through the use of cars.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. After a group of women drove publicly in 1990, the Council of Grand Ulamas issued a fatwa–a religious decree–stipulating that women who drive violate Islam. Saudi women now walk, or depend on hired drivers or male relatives for transportation.

Wajeha al-Huwaider, a prominent Aramco oil analyst and co-founder of the League of Demanders of Women’s Right to Drive Cars in Saudi Arabia, told the Wall Street Journal Sept. 14, “Cats and dogs in the developed world have more rights than Arab women.”

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • A South Carolina election poll concludes that African American women are key to selecting the Democrat nominee in its presidential primary, a pattern that is likely to repeat itself, the State newspaper reported Sept. 14. Largely Republican South Carolina is influential because it is the first Southern state to hold a primary. About one-third of black women are undecided, and analysts believe they could be the overall tipping point in deciding which candidate wins.
  • In New Jersey two women–Elease Evans and Mila Jasey–were sworn into the state’s Assembly, and a record number of female candidates in state legislative races this fall offers the prospect of additional gains for women in a state long noted for its poor record in electing women, according to the Center for American Women in Politics. This fall, 44 women are running for the Assembly and 17 have been nominated to run for the state Senate.
  • An Israeli military commission recommended that women be fully integrated into all army operations, the Jerusalem Post reported Sept. 17. If adopted, the infantry, tank and special forces units would open up to female service. The commission recommended that women serve an additional year–currently they serve two–if they take on combat roles.
  • Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wants to lift the 1982 ban on Islamic headscarves in state universities. “The right to higher education cannot be restricted because of what a girl wears,” he told the Financial Times Sept. 18. Secularists oppose the headscarf as a symbolic threat to the separation of state and religion, but Erdogan’s party considers it an issue of religious expression.
  • A court has rejected the final appeal of Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline to uphold his “kiss and tell” policy that requires health care providers to report all sexual activity–including kissing–of patients under 16 to state authorities as evidence of child abuse. The Center for Reproductive Rights opposed the policy because it would have deterred teens from seeking health care or counseling on reproductive health issues.
  • The Tifereth Israel Synagogue, a Conservative Jewish congregation in Des Moines, Iowa, for the first time observed Yom Kippur with an all-female leadership, the Des Moines Register reported Sept. 21. The synagogue is led by a female rabbi, cantor and president. “We had an egalitarian position right from the start, recognizing women as equals, even changing our prayer book,” said Dr. Marty Rosenfeld, synagogue president.
  • Alternatives to Violence, a domestic violence group in Loveland, Colo., plans to post volunteers in courtrooms to document “insensitive and potentially dangerous” judicial decisions to women, the Rocky Mountain News reported Sept. 21. One target is John Jostad, a magistrate who the group says has forced at least five women into counseling or classes with their abusers despite restraining orders that barred contact. “I think you two just need to get along,” he told one victim. Another said she would go to jail before she complied with the magistrate’s order.
  • O.J. Simpson’s book, “If I Did It,” has been panned by critics. Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times tartly commented that she wanted to put on gloves in order to touch it and that the “yuck factor” was so high “the needle soars right off the scale.” The book is Simpson’s hypothetical account of how he might have murdered his ex-wife in 1994. It is a top seller at online retailers and proceeds benefit the family of Ron Goldman, murdered with Nicole Brown Simpson.

For more information:

Alternatives to Violence:

Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

Indigenous People’s Caucus:

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Anti-choice advocates have successfully blocked the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora, Ill., after a judge granted city officials time to investigate whether the reproductive rights organization committed fraud when it applied for building permits. Planned Parenthood applied for permits under the name Gemini Office Development in hopes of reducing the potential for picketers and protests at the facility, Steve Trombley of the group’s Chicago affiliate told the Los Angeles Times Sept. 21. But they never deceived officials about the purpose of the building, Trombley said, noting that city officials reviewed plans that included bulletproof construction and surgical rooms.

“We are facing no less than the most emboldened protest by the most radical anti-choice people I’ve ever encountered,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In Kansas, anti-choice activists have renewed efforts to force a grand jury investigation of Dr. George Tiller, who performs abortions in the late-second and third trimesters. He was cleared in a similar grand jury investigation in 2005. In a separate case, Tiller is being prosecuted and faces a jail term on charges that he failed to properly get a second opinion for 19 abortions, as required by state law.

Tiller’s Witchita clinic was bombed in 1986. He was shot in both arms in 1993 and returned to work the next day.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The anti-choice Restituta Group plans to lobby Pope Benedict XVI to force a Catholic hospital in London to adhere to official church doctrine and forbid medical staff to discuss contraceptives, abortion and in-vitro fertilization with patients, the Evening Standard reported Sept. 19. So far, the hospital has been unable to enforce the gag policy because doctors and nurses have threatened to quit.
  • The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand voted against a United Nations resolution calling for the adoption of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on Sept. 20. The declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their institutions, cultures and traditions. It also includes an article to draw special attention to the needs of indigenous women and condemns violence against them.
  • The U.S. Senate lost an opportunity to add a female voting member to Congress by defeating a bill that would have elevated Eleanor Holmes Norton to full status in the House of Representatives, the Washington Post reported Sept. 19. Norton has been the non-voting delegate for the District of Columbia since 1991. “We have not given up,” she said.
  • One girl died and seven were hospitalized after a botched female genital mutilation rite in Burkina Faso last week, Agence France Presse reported Sept. 20. Four of the survivors had third-degree mutilations, in which the clitoris and the inner and outer lips of the labia are removed. Burkina Faso outlawed female genital mutilation in 1996. An octogenarian woman who operated on the girls with their parents’ consent could face up to five years in prison.

Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor.

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