Saudi Arabia issues its first driver's licenses to women

Aaron Brown
June 6, 2018

Global news reporters were not present to witness the swap in the only country in the world which prevents women from getting behind the wheel.

This will allow women across the Kingdom drive their cars from June 24.

Some are even training to become drivers for ride-hailing companies like Uber.

Previously, that meant that families had to hire private drivers to transport female relatives.

On May 19, Saudi authorities had detained seven women's rights advocates who campaigned for the right to drive and an end the male guardianship system.

While King Salman's government is surely being lauded for taking this courageous step of allowing women to drive cars, there are now five men and four women in prison for campaigning for it.

"Now we have videos of traffic police handing over these driver's licences to divert the world's attention from the fact that the women who were actually behind championing the cause. are not only in prison but have been charged and potentially face very, very long sentences", she said.

Saudi Arabia - a noted haven for forward-thinking feminist views... wait no, that's not it... a country that requires women to get permission from men to do nearly anything - is finally about to lift its long-standing and highly controversial ban on women drivers. He said they will have permission to drive anywhere in the kingdom, including the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

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They now face a range of charges, including communicating with people and organisations hostile to the kingdom and providing financial and moral support to hostile elements overseas.

Previous reports in state-backed media branded some of the detainees traitors and "agents of embassies".

However, women's rights activists have complained of a new crackdown - with several being arrested.

Three other veteran women's rights activists, who had taken part in the first protest in 1990 against the kingdom's ban on women driving, were also briefly detained. The women were arrested, lost their jobs and had their passports confiscated for a year.

The Ministry of Information said this week that thousands of driving licenses are expected to be issued to women before the ban officially lifts.

Ultraconservatives viewed women driving as immoral and warned women would be subject to sexual harassment if they drove.

Fatima Al-Zahrani, a medical student, said, "I've been driving for nearly eight years now in Canada or whenever I travel to other countries and I like the independence and the ability to explore".

Esraa Albuti, an Executive Director at Ernst & Young, was one of 10 women allowed to swap their license from another country for a Saudi one.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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