Saudi singer celebrates end of driving ban on females with song

Glen Norman
June 25, 2018

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 much of the initial optimism over his reforms appears to have been dented by a sweeping crackdown on women activists who long opposed the driving ban. Saudi Aseel Al-Hamad today took the wheel of a Renault vehicle, hours before the French Grand Prix.

"There will be more cars on the road", Khalid Al-Falih said in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting.

"It's like they say the ocean is made of little drops of water and that's exactly how I feel today".

Hessah al-Ajaji drives down the busy Tahlia Street after midnight for the first time in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, June 24, 2018.

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

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.

Women with licenses from Gulf countries will be required to convert them to Saudi licenses, according to the kingdom's traffic department.

Pedestrians cheered as women motorists drove by, and male drivers shouted words of support and offered thumbs-ups through auto windows.

But the most visible sign of change is coming on Sunday, when women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive, ending a ban that had stained the kingdom's reputation globally, kept women subjugated in the backseat and hindered the full potential of the country's economic growth. "And we have more than 700 already graduated and got their license", said Amel Attia from Emirates Driving Institute, who set up SDS.

Thousands of women have signed up for driving lessons as new female-only programmes have sprung up. This move was announced past year in September, as part of the Kingdom's effort to remove the country's reputation of repressing women's rights.

Prince Mohammed, appointed heir to the most powerful throne in the Middle East a year ago this month, has also lifted a ban on cinemas and mixed-gender concerts, following his public vow to return the kingdom to moderate Islam. And the classes can be costly, running several hundred dollars.

Other women already own cars driven by chauffeurs and are in no rush to drive themselves.

Some women simply prefer to wait and see how the situation on the streets pans out and how male drivers react before they jump in the driver's seat.

"It's a attractive day", businesswoman Samah al-Qusaibi said as she cruised around the eastern city of Khobar just after midnight, with police looking on. I'm proud of my country for lifting the ban and for showing us that it's our time now.

"This is a day I've been waiting for", Dania Alagili told him, "for the last 30 years".

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