Saudi women take the wheel as longstanding driving ban ends
Saudi women take the wheel as longstanding driving ban ends
In Saudi Arabia, women can finally drive
25 June, 2018, 03:49
The lifting of the ban, a glaring symbol of repression, is expected to be transformative for many women, freeing them from dependence on private chauffeurs or male relatives.
"I'm speechless. I'm so excited it's actually happening", said Hessah al-Ajaji, who drove her family's Lexus down the capital's busy Tahlia Street after midnight. One cleric even insisted that driving harmed women's ovaries.
Majdooleen al-Ateeq, 23, drove across Riyadh for the first time in her black Lexus. As she prepared to set off on the road, her older brother sent her off with a kiss on the forehead and a wave.
In fact, it was a historic day of celebration as police gave female drivers flowers, hotels offered rooms and meals to the first women to arrive driving their cars, cafes served them free coffee, while the Ministry of Transport greeted them with a billboard that read "Dear sister, we wish you safety always".
When asked if he was looking forward to his daughters being able to drive, Al-Falih said, "absolutely".
Some women say they never want to drive.
Many women were seen driving to their offices on Sunday morning, while a few were driving on the outskirts of Riyadh to acclimatize themselves with the environment before they hit the roads.
Al-Ajaji had a USA driver's license before obtaining a Saudi one and appeared comfortable at the wheel as she pulled up and parked.
"A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand", Al-Falih said in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting.
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According to Gulf News, the Los Angeles-based singer was over the moon when she heard of Saudi Arabia's decision to let women drive legally, starting June 24.
To celebrate this joyous occasion, woman racer Aseel Al Hamad laps a race track in Saudi Arabia in an F-Type.
26 September 2017: King Salman orders preparations to be made for women to eventually be allowed to drive.
May-June 2018: Saudi authorities arrest more than a dozen prominent women's rights activists, including many who were involved in women driving campaigns, accusing them of suspicious contacts with foreign enemies. "I'm just too proud to be doing this right now".
One cleric claimed women were not smart enough to drive, while another warned that those who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems.
The lifting of the ban has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including against some of the very activists who previously campaigned against the ban. Some have since been temporarily released.
Since May, the Saudi government has detained about 12 activists who fought for a long list of reforms and civil rights.
Amnesty has also called for wider reforms in Saudi Arabia, where women remain subject to male guardianship laws.
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