The Drive for Freedom

Manal al-Sharif


2012 OFF in Oslo
Manal al-Sharif is a women’s activist from Saudi Arabia who made history in 2011 by driving herself as an act of civil disobedience. During her speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012, al-Sharif spoke with BBC journalist Philippa Thomas about the power of Internet activism and the work still to be done to achieve gender equality in Saudi Arabia. 

About the Speaker

Manal al-Sharif



Saudi activist and Women2Drive organizer

Manal al-Sharif is a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia and one of the primary organizers of the Women2Drive campaign, which advocates for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia. She garnered international attention after posting a video on YouTube of herself driving, an act of civil disobedience. In retaliation, the Saudi government detained al-Sharif and charged her with “disturbing public order” and “inciting public opinion.” She was released nine days later, after an international campaign on her behalf. The New York Times described al-Sharif’s campaign as a “budding protest movement” that the Saudi government tried to swiftly extinguish,” attributing al-Sharif’s detention to the Saudi authorities’ fear of a wider protest movement in the country. Foreign Policy named al-Sharif one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2011,” and in 2012, she was one of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People.” She is also a Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Laureate. In 2017, al-Sharif published her book, Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening.

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