Women in Saudi Arabia are preparing to campaign for their right to drive cars in the strict Islamic country.

While it is not illegal for women to drive cars in the Kingdom, they are not allowed to apply for a driving license, so are rendered unable to drive. Saudi Arabia is the only country that does not allow women to drive.

Women who do get behind the wheel are arrested for charges related to public order or political protest.

A national day of action against the restriction has been organised for 26 October by Saudi women's rights activists, who have posted films of themselves driving cars over recent months.

Women in the Kingdom with international driving licenses have been called upon to drive a car, while other women are urged to learn to drive.

Conservative leaders in Saudi Arabia say women drivers would encourage men and women to mix freely, so would threaten public morality.

Saudi's news agency sabq.org said 200 Muslim clerics and preachers visited the royal court in Jeddah to voice their support on a ban of women drivers.

In reaction to the day of protest, the Saudi government has said anyone breaking the country's laws will be arrested.

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: "The Kingdom's laws prohibit activities disturbing the public peace and opening venues to sedition, which only serve the senseless, the ill-intentioned, intruders, and opportunity hunters."

Completely unacceptable

"The Ministry affirms the concerned authorities will fully, and firmly enforce the laws against violators."

Human rights groups have voiced their support for women drivers and the day of protest. Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Equality Now's Middle East and North Africa consultant, said: "We support the growing number of Saudi women who are claiming the right to drive and wholeheartedly support the October 26th campaign, which seeks to end this serious human rights violation.

"Saudi Arabia has been making increasingly positive moves towards ending its system of lifelong male guardianship and we encourage Saudi authorities to respond to increasing national and international pressure to lift the 'fatwa', which effectively prevents women from driving in the Kingdom."

Philip Luthar, Amnesty International's director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, said: "It is astonishing that in the 21st century the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to deny women the right to legally drive a car

"The driving ban is inherently discriminatory and demeaning to women and must be overturned immediately. It is completely unacceptable for the authorities to stand in the way of activists planning to campaign against it.

"Instead of repressing the initiative, the authorities must immediately lift the ban to ensure that women are never again arrested or punished simply for being behind the wheel of a car."