Observers
The decision made by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to allow women to drive was announced on September 26, but won’t go into effect for nine more months. However, the Internet is already full of false rumours about men who’ve been attacking female drivers. People have been circulating a few different videos that are alleged to show these attacks. It turns out, however, that none of them actually do.

These videos began circulating almost immediately after the king’s declaration. They were picked up by several different Middle Eastern media outlets and used as “proof” for the rumours that had been circulating about attacks on Saudi women who dared to get behind the wheel the day after the king’s announcement.

The video of an angry crowd

News sites nnpress.com and Almadenahnews both shared the video seen above. The footage shows a man trying to break a car window. An angry crowd then chases him down and catches him.


A search on the “YouTube Data Viewer” tool (created by human rights organisation Amnesty International) shows that this same video has been posted several times on YouTube.

The oldest posting is from October 19, 2014 -- four years before King Salman’s decree. The events shown in the video did actually take place in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, but the man in question wasn’t trying to attack a liberated female driver. Instead, he was trying to break into a car after having attacked a woman in a shopping centre. He was eventually apprehended by the crowd.

An old video resurfaces

The next video, which bears the logo of Egyptian participatory media RASD, shows various clips of incidents labelled as attacks on women after the King’s declaration. Between 0’46’’ and 0’50’’, a man in a red T-shirt seems to be trying to prevent a woman from getting into a car.


We found this same video on YouTube… except it had been posted on December 24, 2014. The caption reads: “A woman drives in Jeddah and the young people take care of her.” We were not able to confirm if the footage really was shot in Jeddah, a Saudi beach resort. However, what is clear is that this footage does not show an incident provoked by the Saudi king’s recent decree.
 
This video was picked up and shared by the RASD network in the past few weeks. However, the video was first posted online in 2014.

The cellphone thief video

Another video started circulating on September 30. It was picked up by several different media outlets and shared under the title “Insecurity in Saudi Arabia after women are given the right to drive". The video shows a large group of young people running through a parking lot as if they are chasing someone.


This footage was captured during a hot air balloon festival in Tabuk, a city in northwestern Saudi Arabia, on September 23 and 24. When you look at the video closely, you can see that two of the figures are women because they are wearing long, black abayas -- traditional attire for Saudi women. When the footage starts, the two women and a young man are chasing after another man in a parking lot.

"Catch them!" someone yells [In Arabic, people make the phrase plural even if there is only one thief.]  Suddenly, a whole group of young people join in the chase. Several different people shared this video on Twitter, claiming that the crowd had managed to catch the man, who had apparently stolen a cellphone from a young woman in the parking lot of the Tabuk festival.

The king's speech, modified

However, there was even more serious fakery circulating online, including modified versions of King Salman's announcement.

In this video, posted on YouTube on October 1, the presenter of a Saudi public television reads the king’s statement.
“Driving licenses will be given to men and a commission will be set up within the Ministry of the Interior,” she says.



However, the audio of the presenter’s voice has been cut and edited.

In reality, he read the full text of the king’s statement, which reads: “Driving permits will be given to men and women and a commission will be formed within the Ministry of the Interior.”

In the fake version, the “and women” has been cut out. You can hear the real version (below).


Women will be able to drive in June

Saudi authorities denied that there had been any attacks against women in the wake of the king’s decision. That said, there was an announcement on the Twitter account of the Ministry of the Interior on September 29 that a teenager had been arrested after threatening to burn the vehicles of women who dared to drive.

It’s true that not everyone in this ultra-conservative country was behind King Salman’s decree. The day after the announcement, social media users launched a campaign using the hashtag #No_to_women_at_the_wheel, calling on the king to cancel his decision.

Some people expressed fear that this new law would plunge Saudi society into vice. Many of these comments were steeped in misogyny.
 
"After legalising driving, next we’ll end the system of guardianship over women and then it’ll be liberation through vice. The woman is lost, she has no more value. Society is lost. Wake up.”
 
The king’s decree won’t actually go into effect until June 2018. The delay is meant to give women enough time to get driving licences.
Article written with

Djamel Belayachi , Journaliste