Saudi women driving ban ends

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 24, 2018

Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive legally on Sunday, ending one of the most controversial policies of the conservative country.

The historic reform, which follows a sweeping crackdown on women activists, is expected to usher in a new era of social mobility - part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reform drive to modernist the conservative petrostate. Reem Daffa is the Vice President & Executive Director of the Saudi Arabian Public Relation Affairs Committee.

As the Kingdom's women prepare to take the driver's seat and make history, a major poll shows an overwhelming majority of Saudis agree with the ground-breaking reform giving them the right to drive, according to the English language daily Arab News. Rafia Zakaria is also a journalist and author.

"We are ready, and it will totally change our life", said Samira al-Ghamdi, a 47-year-old psychologist from Jeddah, one of the first women to be issued a license.

In 1990, during the first driving campaign by activists, women who got behind the wheels of their cars in the capital, Riyadh, lost their jobs, faced severe stigmatization and were barred from travel overseas for a year.

"I have all the feelings of empowerment and independence being finally behind the wheel and driving my vehicle by myself".

Why couldn't women drive in Saudi Arabia?

On Thursday, it launched a three-day campaign called "place your trust in God and drive" to educate women on driving and raise awareness about safety regulations.

Some three million women in Saudi Arabia could receive licences and actively begin driving by 2020, according to consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The lifting of the ban, which for years drew worldwide condemnation and comparisons to the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, has been welcomed by Western allies as proof of a new progressive trend in Saudi Arabia. The reform agenda is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Women's empowerment is an important element in Vision 2030 and the future of Saudi Arabia. We look to the future.

Alatrash has said that, as a Palestinian, he had become used to being stopped and asked for documents when he drove in his homeland, so he sympathised withhow many Saudi women felt under the ban.

What's more, allowing women to drive will release Saudi women from their dependence on men in emergency situations.

Concerns that women drivers will face abuse in a country where strict segregation rules usually prevent women from interacting with unrelated men prompted a new anti-harassment law last month.

Scores of women took driving lessons at a number of driving schools around the Kingdom, including Princess Noura University in Riyadh.

For decades, hardliners cited austere Islamic interpretations to justify the driving ban, with some asserting that women lack the intelligence to drive and that lifting it would promote promiscuity. The Saudi General Directorate of Traffic and Najm Insurance Services celebrated the graduation of the first class of women investigators in the lead-up to women taking the wheel.

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