Manal...from driving activist to prison activist

Manal Al Sharif has launched an online campaign on Twitter (SUPPLIED)

A Saudi female driving activist who hit headlines last week after defying a long-standing ban on driving cars by women decided to turn her cannons to the defence of female prisoners after experiencing 10 days in jail.

Manal Al Sharif, a security data adviser at the state-owned Saudi Aramco, said she had launched an online campaign on Twitter to press for the release of female prisoners in the eastern port of Dammam, where she was jailed.

She urged other women to join her campaign, dubbed “faraj” (release), saying it would target prisoners jailed for minor crimes.

“I call upon all those who use this website to contribute to this campaign to set free female prisoners from Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries…they are locked up just because they owe a small sum of money but can not afford to pay the debt,” she said, quoted by 'Sabq' newspaper.

She said those prisoners could be released in case the money they owe is paid, adding that persons wishing to help could pay the money to the prison management. “While I was in jail with them, I undertook to help and support them…I am not raising funds myself but those wishing to pay these women’s debt can contact the prison management and get them out of jail.”

Manal spent around 10 days inside Dammam women’s prison after she was caught defying a ban on female driving through the city’s streets.

She was released on Wednesday apparently on orders from King Abdullah and decided to quit a Facebook female campaign planned on June 17 to press for ending the ban on women’s driving in the conservative Muslim country.

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