Published: Mon, June 25, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Saudi Women Drivers: Women allowed behind the wheel as ban is lifted

Saudi Women Drivers: Women allowed behind the wheel as ban is lifted

Saudi Arabian officials announced past year they would be overturning the nation's longstanding ban on women drivers - part of a series of reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at modernizing the Arab state.

As we drove around there were waves from some male drivers which delighted Rima. Many Saudi women spent most of their wages on drivers as a result. It was announced in May that the ban would officially lift on June 24.

Why was there a ban in the first place?

They could detain groups of unmarried men and women for simply standing around or sitting together. Alcohol and music are banned.

To encourage two-income households, Saudi women are taking on jobs that were once reserved for men at lingerie shops and makeup stores.

The Interior Ministry plans to hire women traffic police for the first time, but it is unclear when they will be deployed.

"Saudi Arabia's crown prince wants it both ways: to be lauded as a reformer on the world stage, and to ensure his status as the only reformer at home". They also can not appear in public without wearing a hijab. Sales jobs had previously been reserved for men in the highly conservative country, where unrelated men and women can not freely mix. Shops still close multiple times a day for prayer but some allow customers to stay inside and continue shopping.

New auto sales in Saudi Arabia fell 22.3% a year ago to 536,767 vehicles, according to Matt Gasnier, founder of bestsellingcarsblog.com, which gathers auto sales data from manufacturers around the world. The situation is a far cry from Kenya where women have nearly equal rights to men except in the conservative north. "It's a challenging vision, but as of now, everything seems to be on track", says Mohammed.

Still, auto sales are expected to increase between six and 10 percent once women start driving, the chairman of the national committee for cars at the Council of Saudi Chambers told the daily Saudi Gazette. "We are ready, and it will totally change our life", she told Reuters.

Granting women the right to drive is part of a wider blueprint for the future drawn up by the crown prince.

But the reforms have been contradicted by the continued imprisonment of female activists inside Saudi Arabia.

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Women enthusiastically and wholeheartedly cheered on their fellow female drivers, beginning after midnight, packing Jeddah's Corniche in the middle of the night and then into the day. I went for a drive at midnight when the ban was lifted and this morning you can see how people are very happy.

Not all women are driving at once, though.

"Not everyone can afford it".

It adds that the new law means numerous 1.5 million Saudi women who are at school or are in training can join the labour force in the years to come. "Thanks to King Salman for this achievement".

Qatar and Saudi Arabia have exchanged recriminations over the alleged piracy, but UEFA's threat has cranked up the tension after an earlier rebuke by global governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association.

However, the move comes amid an intensified crackdown on activists who campaigned for the right to drive.

Pro-government media outlets published photos of the detained activists and accused them of being traitors. Some have been temporarily released.

Amnesty International has condemned the arrests.

Activists have already begun campaigning to end the guardianship system, which has been chipped away at slowly over the years.

Saudi woman Majodooleen Al-Ateeq expressed her joy in the video above.

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