JEDDAH: Two people were arrested and referred to public prosecutors on Wednesday after a woman’s car was set on fire by arsonists.
Authorities in Makkah said one of the men bought gasoline at a garage and asked the other to help him set the car alight.
Meanwhile Saudis throughout the country have rushed to offer support and comfort to the victim of the arson attack.
Like thousands of Saudi women, Salma Al-Sharif, 33, who works as a cashier in Makkah, took to the roads when the de facto ban on women driving was lifted last month.
But her new freedom came to an end when a neighbor knocked on her door just before dawn on Monday, and told her father her car was on fire.
Al-Sharif said the car was deliberately set alight by men “opposed to women drivers.”
She said she had faced abuse from men in her neighborhood soon after she began driving in a bid to ease her financial pressures.
“Half of my salary of 4,000 riyals was spent on a driver to take me to my workplace and drive my elderly parents,” Al-Sharif said. “But from the first day of driving I was subjected to insults from men.”
Makkah police said the incident was being investigated, and “we are searching for the culprits.”
Saudis from across the social spectrum gave Al-Sharif their support. Lina Almaeena, a Shoura Council member and one of the first Saudi women to drive, said this was an “isolated incident, definitely,” and Saudi laws were strict.
Sahar Nassif, another driver, told Arab News: “This is no more than an isolated act, it will never make society back down on women driving. Saudi society is 100 percent ready and supportive of women driving. There is no conflict at all.
“These attackers are sick minded and they will be harshly punished by law. This is an objection to royal decisions, and a form of harassment, and I hope they receive what they deserve.”
Saudis on social media took the same view. Manal (@mnal50) tweeted: “I pray that they get captured, jailed, and pay double the worth of the car for the psychological harm they caused her.”
Hanouf BinHimd (@DrHanouf) said on Twitter: “Where are their education, morals, ethics, religious value?! I hope she gets compensation, and those offenders get captured.”
Some even volunteered transport for Al-Sharif until justice is done. @capt_haitham said: “I am ready to get her a car until things get easier for her.”