US backs rights of women in ally Saudi to drive

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States said on Monday it supports the "universal rights" of women to drive in Saudi Arabia, after a weekend protest there saw several women defy the law by taking the steering wheel.

"We support the full inclusion of women in Saudi society. People throughout the world share the same universal rights to assemble and express themselves peacefully," said State Department spokesman Jennifer Psaki.

"So certainly, we would support their ability to drive," Ms Psaki said when asked about asked the Saudi campaign, in which women were encouraged to take to the steering wheel on Oct 26 even if it meant confronting authorities.

"We support, of course, the right of women everywhere to make their own decisions about their lives and their futures and the right to benefit equally from public services and protection from discrimination," the US spokesman stressed.

At least 16 women were stopped by police on Saturday and were fined and forced along with their male guardians to pledge to obey the conservative-kingdom's laws.

A Saudi video mocking the kingdom's unique ban on female driving has gone viral, featuring a male performer singing "no woman, no drive", an adaptation of Bob Marley's "No Cry" hit.

Nearly 3.5 million people had seen the 4:15-minute video by Monday, two days after the adaptation of the reggae legend's "no woman, no cry" had been posted on YouTube.

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