Monday, 16 July, 2018

Driving change: Saudis end ban on women behind wheel

Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers In Saudi Arabia, women can finally drive
Lisa Bryan | 25 June, 2018, 03:49

See photos of some excited women driving their cars legally in Saudi Arabia for the first time below.

On May 19, Saudi authorities had detained seven women's rights advocates who campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the male guardianship system.

Amnesty International said lifting the ban was "a small step in the right direction" but called for an end to other practices that discriminate against women.

The government has preemptively addressed concerns of abuse by outlawing sexual harassment, with a prison term of up to five years and a maximum penalty of 300,000 riyals ($80,000).

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.

"A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand", Al-Falih said in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting. "Even some of the women who weren't feeling comfortable about driving, it's going to be encouraging for them, in a live demonstration and evidence that women can do it".

An interior ministry spokesman declined to specify how many licenses had been issued but said 120,000 women had applied, from an eligible pool of around 9 million.

Due to strict enforcement of Sharia law, women are not allowed to attend the same driving schools as men.


Three of the women still detained- Aziza al-Yousef, Loujain al-Hathloul and Eman al-Nafjan- are seen as icons of a larger democratic and civil rights push in the kingdom.

The government has accused them of vague crimes, including working with "foreign entities" to harm the interests of the kingdom. "Sudden", talk show host Samar Almogren told The Guardian as she drove across the capital Riyadh. "I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated", she said. "It's the efforts of everyone, little drops of sweat", Farahat said.

Saudia Arabia's transformation, including allowing women greater freedoms and equality, may be essential to its economy.

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. There's a waiting list of several months for the classes on offer in major cities. The classes also cost several hundred dollars, far more than what men now pay.

"They're very supportive. You can see from the streets everyone is so happy".

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

While there has been some loosening of restrictions in recent months, rights groups say much more remains to be done. But the young people are motivated and we need at this time someone like Mohammed bin Salman - motivated, God bless him, and daring. "We all will stick to our beliefs and this is something that is not negotiable. however, what we want is to have a normal life".

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