Subaru has become the first company targeted by The Saudi Women For Driving coalition to pull out of Saudi Arabia until the ban on female drivers has lifted. The demand has come through a change.org petition which reads:
"As Saudi women our lack of freedom of movement places an extreme burden on our lives. We lack a public transportation system and the most basic errands and medical appointments are missed due to the difficulty and expenses of arranging transportation, notwithstanding educational and work opportunities. Our lack of this basic right to drive our own cars creates many safety risks for women on the roads, and relying on strangers as drivers has jeopardized the safety of women and children in many documents cases."
The reason for the targeting of Subaru is due to their strong position in the west as a strong advocate for women’s rights, sponsoring women’s surf festivals, the U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series, “Subaru Women’s Week” packages for skiers and the Outstanding Woman in Science Award for the Geological Society of America, whilst selling cars to the only nation that refuses the right to women to drive their products.
Hilary Clinton, targeted by a similar change.org petition, formally declared her support for the movement just a day before the petition was released. Clinton herself described the women of The Saudi Women For Driving as ‘brave’ and a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, Victoria Nuland and said the issue of driving had come up in conversation between Mrs Clinton and Saudi Prince Saud, following that she was excersing “quiet diplomacy”:
“I think she is making a judgment on how best to support universal human rights for women. There are times when it makes sense to do so publicly and there are times for quiet diplomacy.”
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the owners of Subaru commented that Subaru dealers in Saudi Arabia had not “received any information of any campaigns,” as well as telling journalists, “We only have dealers in Saudi Arabia, and no factories. Our annual sales in the country are limited to only 300 to 400 units.”
Benjamin Joffe-Wait, human-rights editor for change.org told reporters the campaign may be extended to General Motors and Hyundai, two cars brands driven by Manal al-Sharif who was arrested last month in Khobar.