Saudi Women Delay Driving Protest
The group Women2Drive postponed their planned Sunday protest to next Friday in light of the death of Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz. The group Friday had called for women with international drivers licenses to get behind the wheel to mark the one year anniversary of last year’s driving protest, but to do so respectfully in required Islamic dress and with pictures of the King. Husbands, brothers, and other male family members were encouraged to sit in the passenger seats to show their support for the movement which last year saw women arrested, jailed, and even sentenced to lashes. On Wednesday, the movement’s leaders also sent a petition with 600 signatures to King Abdullah asking him to allow women to drive.
The death of Crown Prince Nayef has reopened the question of who will succeed King Abdullah for the second time in a year. The 79-year-old crown prince died in Geneva of apparent cardiac problems and was buried Sunday in Mecca. Nayef headed the Interior Ministry and spearheaded counter-terrorism and intelligence operations in Saudi Arabia, particularly against Al-Qaeda. Considered more conservative than the king and known as being strongly anti-Shia, Nayef is believed to have led the recent crackdown in Bahrain. His likely successor as Crown Prince is 76-year-old Prince Salman, former governor of Riyadh.
Elliott Abrams discusses the likely succession outcomes, agreeing with most that the aging Prince Salman is the likely candidate, but weighing what the eventual transition to the next generation will look like. Abrams says as Saudi Arabia moves away from the sons of the founder King Abd al-Aziz to his grandsons, the balancing act for different wings of the family will become more difficult, and the candidates for future king are numerous. Ed Husain says despite Nayef’s last words calling for Saudis to defend “your religion and country, your sons, and future generations,” the Crown Prince’s death is a blow to Saudi conservatism. Now, Husain argues, is the time for reform leaning royals to push for reforms.