Saudi Arabia grants first driving licences to women

07 June, 2018, 12:49 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Saudi Arabia women driving

A group of Saudi women received their driving licenses on Monday by replacing their recognized worldwide driving licenses with Saudi ones.

On Monday, the general traffic directorate officially replaced the internationally recognized driving licenses that many women in the country have with official Saudi licenses, according to Saudi Press Agency (SPA) via Al Jazeera.

While Saudi law has never explicitly banned women from driving, women were not issued driving licences.

"It's a dream come true that I am about to drive in the kingdom", Rema Jawdat, one of the women to receive a licence, was quoted as saying by the CIC.

Though the issuing of licenses appears to mark a step forward for Saudi Arabia, considered one of the world's most oppressive countries for women, the arrest last month of several women's rights activists ― including some who'd advocated for the right to drive ― has cast a dark shadow on the occasion.

The arrests anxious women's rights activists and those monitoring the social reform agenda of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

This measure is part of the traffic department's preparations to implement a royal decree allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia began issuing its first driving licences to women in decades on Monday, state media reported.

On Saturday, the Saudi government "temporarily" released eight activists who were arrested in May for protesting against the ban.

"All the requirements for women in the kingdom to start driving have been established", Bassami told the AFP.

The spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, has described the crackdown as "perplexing". "Mohammed bin Salman has been promoting changes, like the decision to allow women to drive, all while risking backlash from clerics and others who adhere to the ultraconservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam", AP added.

Last year, the crown prince, regarded as a major power in the country, outlined an ambitious plan to reform the Saudi economy by 2030.

Some 2,000 licenses are expected to be issued to women in the upcoming weeks.

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