Saudi Arabia’s Ban on Women Driving Ends Officially

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Saudi women are now officially allowed to get behind the wheel after a decades-old driving ban was lifted. — AP

Women and families began tweeting photos and videos of women driving and celebrating soon after the ban was lifted.

RIYADH — Saudi women are in the driver’s seat for the first time in their country and steering their way through busy city streets just minutes after the world’s last remaining ban on women driving was lifted on Sunday.

It’s a euphoric and historic moment for women who have had to rely on their husbands, fathers, brothers and drivers to run basic errands, get to work, visit friends or even drop kids off at school.

Saudi women are now officially allowed to get behind the wheel after a decades-old driving ban was lifted.

Since early Sunday morning, women have been driving on the roads across the country, while Saudi traffic police handed out roses to them, reports Xinhua news agency.

On June 4, Saudi Arabia issued the first driving license to women, after Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud officially announced in September 2017 to allow women to drive.

“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.

Al-Ajaji had a US driver’s license before obtaining a Saudi one and appeared comfortable at the wheel as she pulled up and parked. As for the male drivers on the road, “they were really supportive and cheering and smiling”, she said.

“I will get my driver’s license, but I won’t drive because I have a driver. I am going to leave it for an emergency. It is one of my rights and I will keep it in my purse,” said 60 year-old Lulwa al-Fireiji.

While some still quietly oppose the change, there are men openly embracing it.

“I see that this decision will make women equal to men and this will show us that women are capable of doing anything a man can do,” said Fawaz al-Harbi. “I am very supportive and in fact I have been waiting for this decision so that my mother, my sisters will drive.”

Women and families began tweeting photos and videos of women driving and celebrating soon after the ban was lifted.

Saudi Arabia was the only country left in the world where women could not drive and families had to hire private chauffeurs for female relatives, reports BBC.

The move will free many women from the constraints of needing to use public transportation or hire a male driver to travel even small distances, allowing many more to join the workforce, reports CNN.

Hiring women is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plan to overhaul its economy, known as Vision 2030. The reform agenda is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Assistant Interior Minister for Operations Saeed Al-Qahtani has confirmed that security checkpoints would be set up to deal with expected changes in traffic after lifting the ban.

Driving schools for women have been set up in five cities.

Women with foreign driving licenses will be able to apply for a local one through a separate process. — Agencies

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