In their ongoing quest to secure the ability to legally drive, a group of Saudi women are beseeching Subaru to stop selling vehicles in countries that prohibit female drivers from taking to the road. According to Change.org, more than 1,000 people an hour are signing a petition that hopes to convince the Japanese automaker to do just that. Saudi Women for Driving has already sent an open letter to the decision makers at Fuji Heavy Industries urging them to stop business in Saudi Arabia until women are allowed behind the wheel.
Why Subaru? While the movement is also urging other automakers to do the same, its leaders decided to focus on Subaru because of the brand's tendency to market heavily toward women.
Saudi Women for Driving officially got under way when Manal al Sharif posted videos of herself driving in the country as a protest against unjust laws. After her videos were removed by shadowy government agencies, she was arrested for her transgressions and announcements on Twitter lead followers to believe that she had abandoned her efforts. But with campaigns like the one urging Subaru to abandon business in the market underway, the topic doesn't look to be going away anytime soon. Hit the jump for the full press blast as well as al Sharif's original video.
Saudi activists call on Subaru, which markets heavily to women, to pull out of Saudi Arabia until women get the right to drive; Change.org campaign already attracting 1,000 signatures an hour.
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – More than 1,000 people an hour are signing a new viral Change.org campaign created by a coalition of leading Saudi Arabian women's rights activists calling on Subaru to stop selling cars in the oil-rich kingdom until a ban on women driving is lifted.
Saudi Women for Driving, a coalition of leading Saudi women's rights activists, bloggers and academics campaigning for the right to drive, sent an open letter Wednesday to the senior management of the Japanese transportation conglomerate Fuji Heavy Industries, which owns Subaru.
"While Subaru is marketed heavily at women, your company is simultaneously making hundreds of millions selling your cars in the only country on earth where women aren't allowed to drive," the Saudi women's coalition wrote to the car manufacturer. "We write to you with a simple request: that Subaru publicly pledge to pull out of Saudi Arabia until such time as women are allowed to drive."
Saudi Women for Driving plans to launch similar campaigns against a number of other car companies, but decided to target Subaru first due to the company's heavy marketing of the Subaru brand to women.
One day after the campaign's launch, Saudi Women for Driving had recruited more than 44,000 supporters on Change.org, the world's fastest growing platform for social change.
"It's still early, but recruiting 1,000 supporters an hour is an unprecedented level of growth for a campaign," said Change.org's Human Rights Editor Benjamin Joffe-Walt. "The amount of momentum these Saudi women have managed to build in one month is incredible: first they successfully mobilized more than 70,000 people to help a Saudi mother arrested for driving her own car, then they successfully led a month-long campaign to get the United States' top diplomat to publicly stand with them, and now they are taking on their most ambitious campaign yet. I can't wait to see what happens next."
The Saudi women's Subaru campaign follows a significant victory for Saudi women's rights' activists. Saudi Women for Driving recently called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to publicly support their right to drive. Her spokesperson responded, and said Clinton was doing so through "quiet diplomacy." But Saudi women pushed back on that approach, launching a massive Change.org campaign to convince Clinton to reconsider and telling the secretary of state yesterday that "quiet diplomacy is not what we need right now." At a press conference two hours later, the top U.S. diplomat publicly declared her support for the Saudi women's right to drive campaigns, calling them "brave".
Saudi Women for Driving is an informal consortium of Saudi women's rights activists pulled together after the arrest of Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi mother jailed for driving her car. The group seeks to use online campaigning to build international support for Saudi women's right to drive. More than 150,000 people in 156 countries have joined Saudi Women for Driving campaigns on Change.org.