Saudi women finally get to drive

25 June, 2018, 01:35 | Author: Diane Mills
  • Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers

"I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and spirit to dream", she added.

The move places Saudi women at the heart of a major transformation being spearheaded by the country's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The arrest of the women's rights activists just before women are allowed to drive sends a message that "you are subjects and not citizens" and that the Saudi leadership alone controls when and how change takes shape, said Kristin Diwan, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. She also was the first woman to import a Ferrari into Saudi Arabia and has taken her 458 Spider to tracks around the country for workshops and track days.

About six million women - or 65 percent of the female driving-age population - are expected to apply for a licence now that the ban is lifted, according to the London-based consulting firm Facts Global Energy.

Now she can driver herself to work - or anywhere she wants to go.

Since Prince Mohammed assumed power, Saudi Arabia has already lifted bans on women attending movies and music concerts with men.

While Ms Worthem conceded that the biggest impact of the change would be on drivers, she doesn't expect the workforce to be completely wiped out.

Allowing women to drive is part of Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's plan to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism in the next 22 years.

Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have fired more than 100 missiles at Saudi Arabia in the past three years as the kingdom wages devastating airstrikes against the group.

More news: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife charged with fraud

Across the street, her neighbour had just arrived home with two bags of groceries.

Although women do not need male permission to obtain a driver's license, the culture still dictates that fathers, husbands and brothers have final say.

But it has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including against some of the very activists who previously campaigned against the ban.

Up until now, they relied on male members of their family to drive them or were forced to hire private drivers. There's also a waiting list of several months for a courses in major cities where they are offered.

Though Mr Gasnier doesn't expect women to rush out and buy a vehicle straight away.

"I am not a provoker, not a vandaliser, not a terrorist, a criminal or a traitor", Abdelaziz said in a letter before her arrest, which was cited by HRW.

"I definitely won't like to drive", said Fayza al-Shammary, a 22-year-old saleswoman.

She thinks that some Saudi women will take a wait-and-see approach to learning to drive, rather than jumping straight in. Television presenter Sabika al-Dosari said the end of the ban was "a historic moment for every Saudiwoman" before driving a sedan across the border to the kingdom of Bahrain.

Excited over the end of the ban, Tamtam said, "I'm so happy the time has come". The ministry declined to disclose how many women had received licenses so far, saying the process is still in the early stages.

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