Secretary of State Hillary Clinton PUBLICLY Offers Support to Saudi Women Driving Protests *updated*
I posted about the Saudi Women2Drive campaign last week and highlighted a letter some of the organizers of the protests had sent to Secretary Clinton, asking for her support.
Well, today during a joint press availability she was asked about the women in Saudi Arabia seeking the right to drive:
The women of Saudi Arabia fighting for the right to drive just got a little bit of love from the secretary of state.
“What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right,” Hillary Rodham Clinton said this morning in her first public comments on the issue. “I am moved by it and I support them.”
Saudi rights advocates had issued repeated calls for Clinton to make a public statement of support. They have also sought support from the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
Several dozen women in Saudi Arabia who have defied the ban on driving recently have been arrested.
When asked Monday why Clinton had not addressed the women’s campaign, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the secretary had been engaged in “quiet diplomacy” on the issue.
Clinton said this morning that the Saudi “effort belongs” to the women behind it.
This is fantastic news and I am so glad Secretary Clinton has added her support to that of so many others- quiet diplomacy has its place but there are times when basic principles of human rights demand more. And on this Hillary Clinton stepped up to the plate.
UPDATE:This is the relevant part of the transcript from her press briefing today with Secy Gates where the issue came up:
QUESTION:…And just a quick question on another subject, the Saudi women driver’s protest. We were told yesterday that you are engaged in quiet diplomacy. Some people think that it’s a little bit too quiet and they would say that perhaps the reason you’re doing that is because you do not want to offend the Saudi Government at a time when the United States really needs it, especially in the Mideast. Can you explain your views on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, let me start with respect to Afghanistan. And I think you would expect me to say that I will not have any comment before the President delivers the speech that he intends to make. The time for it has not yet been set, but we expect it will be occurring soon. In fact, Secretary Gates and I will be leaving here to go to the White House for further consultations with the President. And then I am scheduled to testify on Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I’m sure, since the subject of the hearing is Afghanistan and Pakistan, I will have quite a bit to say and a lot of questions to answer, so at that time I will certainly respond to your concerns that you raised in the question.
With respect to Saudi Arabia and the ban on women driving, let me start by saying that this is about Saudi women themselves. They have joined together. They are acting on behalf of their own rights. This is not about the United States. It is about the women of Saudi Arabia. And what these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right. But the effort belongs to them. I am moved by it and I support them, but I want to underscore the fact that this is not coming from outside of their country. This is the women themselves seeking to be recognized.
And we have raised this issue at the highest level of the Saudi Government. We’ve made clear our views that women everywhere, including women in the Kingdom, have the right to make decisions about their lives and their futures. They have the right to contribute to society and to provide for their children and their families. And mobility, such as provided by the freedom to drive, provides access to economic opportunity, including jobs, which does fuel growth and stability. And it’s also important for just day-to-day life, to say nothing of the necessity from time to time to transport children for various needs and sometimes even emergencies.
Now, I know there is an active debate in Saudi Arabia on a range of social issues. For our part, we will continue in private and in public to urge all governments to address issues of discrimination and to ensure that women have the equal opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential. But I want to, again, underscore and emphasize that this is not about the United States, it’s not about what any of us on the outside say; it is about the women themselves and their right to raise their concerns with their own government.