Former Houston Woman Faces Whipping For Driving In Saudi Arabia

HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – A University of St. Thomas graduate continues to face a possible whipping for driving her own car in the Saudi Arabia city where she lives.

Almost three months ago, Shaima Jastaniah, 34, was condemned for 10 lashes for driving her black BMW X5 in the coastal city of Jeddah. In Saudi Arabia, only men are allowed to drive, rendering Jastaniah and her international driver’s license defenseless against Saudi law. Now, the former Houston resident faces the whipping if she doesn’t win her appeal in court next week, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Jastaniah’s stance against the female driving ban has come at a time where other women have also gone against the absolute monarchy law in recent months. The situation has also drawn attention from women’s rights advocates such as Saudi Princess Ameerah al-Taweel. Originally, a tweet from al-Taweel, the wife of billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, on Sept. 28 implied that Jastaniah may have been pardoned.

“Thank God, the lashing of Shaima is canceled,” she tweeted at the time. “Thanks to our beloved king. I’m sure all Saudi women will be so happy, I know I am.”

But it was not to be. Jastaniah was notified on Nov. 12 that her royal pardon didn’t mean that she would avoid punishment.

The city of Houston has taken to Jastaniah’s story. The mother of two moved to Houston in 2000 with her husband, who she later divorced. She earned a master’s degree from St. Thomas last year before moving back to Saudi Arabia to live with her parents.

Nivien Saleh, an assistant professor of international studies at St. Thomas, was a former professor of Jastaniah’s. She had seeked Saleh’s help in raising awareness of her situation.

“I want to be able to drive, just like I did back in the states,” Saleh recalled Jastaniah saying, according to the Houston Chronicle. “And I want other women to be able to do the same. It’s a basic human right.”

Messages left by CBS Houston to Saudi Arabia Embassy officials were not immediately returned.


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