Updated Aug 2, 2018

Between the lines: Saudi men are harassing women drivers

Saudi woman Sabika Habib drives her car through the streets of Khobar City on her way to Kingdom of Bahrain. Photo: Hussain Radwan/AFP/Getty Images

Since the ban of women drivers in Saudi Arabia was lifted in June, some female drivers have been targeted by men who disagree with the new law by setting their cars on fire, threatening them and harassing them in public.

The big picture: Ultraconservatives and Saudi authorities have been continuously going against the kingdom’s efforts for top-down reforms as women become apprehensive of driving. Nabih Bulos tells the story of Saudi driver, Salma Barakati, in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday: "Despite months of an intensely orchestrated feel-good campaign by the government, the smoldering remains of Barakati’s car offered the starkest illustration that not all are on board with women in the driver’s seat."

What’s happening
  • Men near Mecca gathered around Salma Barakati the first day she drove and hurled insults at her. Days later, her car caught on fire as shown in a tweet:

Two women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia , who have previously campaigned to allow women to drive, were targeted by authorities and were detained Wednesday, despite legally having the right to drive, per Wall Street Journal.

The other side: Clerics are insisting that driving privileges for women would "invite promiscuity," damage women’s ovaries, and argue women cannot drive because they only have half a brain.

Saudi authorities said in June that more than 120,000 women have applied for licenses, but commentators have reported only a small number of women on the road. The LA Times reports it's due to fear, not lack of confidence.

Car companies and publicity agencies are making ads to appeal to the mixed feelings on the new law:

  • Nissan filmed women taking a driving lesson with a close male relative as the instructor.
  • International advertising company M&C Saatchi created an ad for Shell Middle East that depicted a group of men speaking to the camera as they come to terms with women from their family driving.

The bottom line: As the King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman start to include women to improve the economy, the acceptance to women's rights has been slow to follow. But, Bulos reports driving will eventually become normalized.

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 721,584 — Total deaths: 33,958 — Total recoveries: 149,122.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 142,106 — Total deaths: 2,479 — Total recoveries: 2,686.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health