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Saudi woman defies driving ban, saving man's life

This month, King Salman issued orders backing the relaxation of rules on male guardianship [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 May, 2017

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A Saudi student has been hailed for her heroics after she ignored the country's ban on women driving, and drove an incapacitated bus driver to safety.

In Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving cars, a female university student has heroically driven a bus driver to safety after he suffered a stroke while behind the wheel. 

Ashwaq al-Shamri this week saved the life of the driver in the northwestern city of Hail as he transported her home from university along with several of her female classmates.

"The driver told us that he felt dizzy and then suddenly stopped," Shamri told Saudi newspaper Okaz.

"Me and my colleagues got out, carried him and sat him in the back of the bus. They tried to give him first aid and I drove to the nearest shop on the agricultural road to get him cold water," the 20-year-old said.

She explained that the nearest hospital was miles away so she then took him to his house, where his family were able to rush him to hospital just in time to make a full recovery.

The university student's father, a local teacher, had taught her to drive at a young age to help with labour on their farmland.

Commenting on the incident he said: "I am extremely proud of my daughter... her work on the farm has been part of her responsibilities since she was young."

The ban on women driving has been hotly contested in recent years with prominent figures coming out and endorsing a lift on the prohibition, which is unique to the kingdom.

Last year, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said that he wanted an "urgent" end to the ban, arguing that overturning the law was a matter of women's rights and economic necessity.

Since 2011, Saudi activists on social media galvanised by the Arab Spring have expressed their dismay about their patriarchal society with online campaigns such as #Women2Drive.

Earlier this month, King Salman issued orders backing the relaxation of rules on male guardianship over Saudi women - a small step forward towards gender equality.

The orders are alleged to include the provision that Saudi women can access government services - including education and healthcare - without a male's consent.

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