Saudi woman defies driving ban and dies

20-year-old's car overturns due to high speed


A 20-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving, died when the car she was driving overturned in the capital Riyadh, a newspaper reported on Monday.

The Saudi woman was driving at high speed when the accident occurred late on Saturday, Riyadh police spokesman Major Sami Shwayrekh was quoted as saying in the Saudi edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat.

He said the incident was under investigation.

The driving ban is among a host of restrictions imposed on women in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Women activists and supporters have petitioned King Abdullah twice since September urging him to lift the ban.

A group of 47 women defied the ban by driving through the streets of Riyadh in 15 cars in November 1990. They were swiftly rounded up by police and penalized, while their male guardians were reprimanded.

The following year, a fatwa (religious edict) was issued by the then mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, prohibiting women from driving cars.

Despite the ban, there have been cases of women driving in rural and desert areas to buy supplies for their homes or help with farming activities.

In May 2005, a Saudi woman was reported to have died when the car she was driving west of Riyadh was involved in an accident.