Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Saudi prince Alwaleed driven by daughter as driving ban lifted

Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers In Saudi Arabia, women can finally drive
Gerardo Duncan | 25 June, 2018, 03:50

Women in Saudi Arabia were able to take to the roads at midnight, ending the world's last ban on female drivers, long seen as an emblem of women's repression in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

Forty-seven-year-old Clinical Psychologist Samira al-Ghamdi is among those who have already received a driving licence.

In 1990, during the first driving campaign by activists, women who got behind the wheels of their cars in the capital, Riyadh, lost their jobs, faced severe stigmatization and were barred from travel overseas for a year.

Earlier this month, the Kingdom began issuing its first driving licences to women in decades, with a handful of women swapping their foreign licences for Saudi ones after undergoing a practical test.

Saudi Arabia lifted its widely-criticized ban on women drivers on Sunday, sparking jubilation among many women in the country who went out on the roads shortly after the ban was lifted. Speaking of her latest track, she said, "Drive is inspired by Saudi women now having a bigger voice".

The changes have already meant more visibility for Saudi women who work in the vehicle industry.

For Aseel Al-Hamad, the moment that preceded the French Grand Prix marked the end of one era and the onset of what she hopes will be a new one.

Those with global driving licences would be able to drive in the kingdom for up to a year, after which they would be required to apply for a Saudi licence, the department said. "There will be women who fire the chauffeur and drive in the auto they already own".

A row over broadcasting of the World Cup in Saudi Arabia has escalated, with Riyadh denying an allegation by European soccer's governing body that a television channel it says is illegally showing matches is based in the kingdom.

"In the beginning years, like to two and three, I'm a little scared about the people". Giving women the ability to drive is viewed by the government as the first step. There were claims that removing the ban would lead to promiscuity and the breakdown of the family unit. Three of the women who'd taken part in the 1990 protest and several others who campaigned years later for the right to drive were arrested last month.

With state-backed support for the move, many Saudis now say they support the decision allowing women to drive and see it as long overdue.

It also places women at the center of a tug-of-war between those agitating for more openings and a religious majority that remains wary of changes that could be influenced by the West. Most were freed after reaching settlements with the government. "This is a great achievement", billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal said as his daughter Reem drove a family SUV, with his granddaughters applauding from the back seat.

The ban's reversal, however, has coincided with a recent crackdown on women's rights activists in the country.

Activists say the next campaign would be to end guardianship laws.

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