“Some battle oppressive governments; others battle oppressive societies. Which one is harder?” Manal al-Sharif tries to answer that question by telling her story about driving in Saudi Arabia, against common cultural restrictions. She was arrested for driving; her brother was detained and harassed for giving her the keys, and ultimately lost his job and had to leave the country. “I was faced with organized defamation campaign, combined with false rumors.” She talks about the influence of social rules and the ban which had not been challenged in 20 years, enforced by religious fatwa, custom not law.
This story demonstrates powerful leadership courage to challenge the social rule. She was the face of a collective action, but received threats of rape, murder and nine days of arrest. Her collective broke the tabu eventually, with no further arrests. Listen to her explanation of how women were prohibited from driving, in essence based on the immorality of women in countries where women drive. She also talks about the power of mocking your oppressor, and their Twitter campaign to mock the original study that argued, so counter-rationally, the extremist practice limiting womenʻs rights and mobility. Hearing her voice, listening to her speak of the division in her identity — villian and hero — because of her courageous leadership. She says, “Because I love my country, I am doing this. If women are not free, society is not free.”