U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, right, upon her arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Feb. 15, 2010. (AP Photo/State Department)
Although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has championed women’s rights from Azerbaijan to Zambia, it took her weeks to respond to an appeal to publicly support a campaign by Saudi women to be permitted to drive.
Even then, her comments on Tuesday came not of her own initiative, but in response to a question at a press availability – and after Saudi women activists and journalists had questioned her public silence on the subject.
In her answer, Clinton signaled once again the Obama administration’s sensitivity about the U.S. being seen to be preaching change to a non-Western culture – and to an important U.S. ally. She repeatedly stressed that the driving campaign was coming from Saudi women themselves.
“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,” she said.
“We have raised this issue at the highest level of the Saudi government,” Clinton continued. “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.”
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