DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A growing number of men are quietly helping steer a campaign to end Saudi Arabia’s ban on allowing women to drive, risking their jobs and social condemnation in the conservative kingdom.
Some of the men have even been questioned by authorities, and one was detained by a branch of the Saudi Interior Ministry – a move that sent a chill through some of the activists working to put women behind the wheel.
On Saturday, more than 60 women said they defied the ban, although they faced little action from police.
In the run-up to the weekend protest, men played a key role in helping wives, sisters and female friends to enjoy what they believe is a fundamental right.
Since the campaign was launched in September, they have produced videos of women driving and put them on social networks.
They have helped protect the female drivers by forming packs of two or three cars to surround them and ward off potential harassment.
And some have simply ridden as passengers with the women as they run their daily errands.
“The stereotype is that there’s a problem in Arab culture and that we are against women and that the West is on the side of women. This is totally rejected,” said Abdullah al-Bilassi, a 23-year-old engineering student in Riyadh.
He says he is active in the campaign partly because he is tired of hearing that Saudi men and Islam are against allowing women to drive.