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Saudi women to take fight from Web to road

Weeks after Manal Al Sharif was detained in Saudi Arabia for posting a YouTube video that showed her driving, the movement that she hoped to start is about to go on the road.

Women across Saudi Arabia are gearing up to claim their right to drive in a country that still keeps them away from the wheel. 

It seems like one group of women has already hit the road and made it home safe. The woman behind the Twitter account @FouzAbd tweeted three hours ago:

  • Only mom is driving and I don't see any other women driving. But ppl r not harassing us at all #women2drive
  • Drove all the way from our Uni where we celebrated my sister's graduation till our house. And then went out again and driving in AlSahafa
  • Back home ! See ladies ? Its this simple ! Tmrw u GO and DRIVE ! #women2drive

Many more women are announcing their intention to get behind the wheel on Twitter and Facebook, under Twitter feeds like #women2drive and #W2drive, and been met with gushing support from followers across the globe.

And there's a possible countermeasure being conjured up as well: There have been calls for men to dress in the headscarf and robe that Saudi women wear, and get behind the wheel, supposedly to confuse the people policing the roads.

A YouTube campaign, "Honk for Saudi Women," began a few weeks ago, with videos posted from around the world, and an accompanying Facebook page.

Possibly anticipating some roadblocks in the Women2Drive activity, today Amnesty International issued a statement that called for Saudi Arabia to let women drive. "Saudi Arabian authorities must not arrest licensed women drivers who choose to drive, and must grant them the same driving privileges as men," Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa said in a press release

Laila Sindi plans to hit the road early.

One hour ago, Laila Sindi announced her driving plans on Twitter, to which hundreds of Twitter followers responded. I asked: Was she going to get any sleep tonight? "Not really," she answered, via the social network.

Last month, Manal Al Sharif posted a YouTube video that showed her driving a car in the Saudi Arabian town of Kobar. That was the first of her online moves to get women on the road, along with a Facebook and Twitter campaign.  

Manal Al Sharif was detained by the Saudi authorities the day after she poster her video, and was released after nine days, but apparently only after promising to take down her campaign, and signing a release saying she would not drive again.

Manal Al Sharif has been silent since then, but it seems like her plan to get Saudi women driving will go on. It's not yet clear what the response of the government will be, but one blogger (who also tweets under the handle @muradJeddah) makes it clear that the drivers won't be giving up easily:

An image from the Facebook page, "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself"

It's time we made our voices heard, to show the government, and the world, that we are serious about our demands.

Women will go out tomorrow, on Friday, June 17 2011 from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and driving on public streets of each city in Saudi Arabia.

If we do not express our demands, there will be no pressure on the government to change, someone has to do it, brave people have to go out and express their demands for freedom, we are those people.

To be clear, we do not want to change the government or to overthrow it. We want freedom for Saudi women, and we will express our views absolutely peacefully, completely without any clashes with the security.

For a blow-by-blow account of events in Riyadh, follow the NBC News World Blog

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Nidhi Subbaraman writes about tech and science at msnbc.com. Follow her on Twitter, and join our conversation on Facebook.