Saudi Arabia will start allowing women to get driver's licenses

Saudi Arabia announced its first-ever issuance Monday of driver's licenses to women.
By Rick Docksai | Jan 07, 2019
Effective this month, Saudi Arabia will no longer ban women from driving. The Saudi government said Monday that it has issued its 10 first-ever driver's licenses to women applicants, with a wholesale repeal of the ban on women's driver's licenses to take hold June 24. The repeal fulfills Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's announcement last September that he would end the ban as part of his larger effort to modernize Saudi society and revitalize the nation's economy.

"The dream became a reality," one Saudi woman, Ahlam al-Thunayan, wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of her new driver's license. Al-Thunayan thanked both King Salman and Prince Mohammed for the repeal. Prince Mohammed, as the crown prince, is the second most-powerful person in the kingdom and is the king's designated successor.

Mohammed is leading a "liberalization" effort aimed at doing away with long-held restrictions on women's rights and intermixing of the genders. Just last week, Saudi lawmakers approvedalso at Mohammed's requesta law criminalizing sexual harassment.

Momentum for overturning the kingdom's longstanding restrictions on women has grown in recent years, according to experts, who note that Saudi universities are now graduating more women then men. They also observe more Saudi women working in fields that had been historically off-limits to them.

The government also released "temporarily" released eight activists Sunday after jailing them the week prior for protesting the ban on women drivers. It said that they all remain under investigation, however.

It also kept nine others incarcerated, claiming that they had confessed to crimes and that it had "significant evidence against them." Their alleged crimes include "suspicious contact with hostile organizations" and recruiting people in sensitive government positions.


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