Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving ends officially

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Riyadh, June 24 (IANS) Saudi women are now officially allowed to get behind the wheel after a decades-old driving ban was lifted on Sunday.

Since early orning, women have been driving on the roads across the country, while Saudi traffic police handed out roses to them, reports Xinhua news agency.

On June 4, Saudi Arabia issued the first driving license to women, after Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud officially announced in September 2017 to allow women to drive.

Assistant Interior Minister for Operations Saeed Al-Qahtani has confirmed that security checkpoints would be set up to deal with expected changes in traffic after lifting the ban.

Driving schools for women have been set up in five cities.

Women with foreign driving licenses will be able to apply for a local one through a separate process.

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Saudi Arabia was the only country left in the world where women could not drive and families had to hire private chauffeurs for female relatives, reports BBC.

The move will free many women from the constraints of needing to use public transportation or hire a male driver to travel even small distances, allowing many more to join the workforce, reports CNN.

Hiring women is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plan to overhaul its economy, known as Vision 2030. The reform agenda is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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

At least eight women’s rights activists are being detained and could face trial in a counter-terrorism court and long prison sentences for their activism, according to Amnesty.

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Women and families began tweeting photos and videos of women driving and celebrating soon after the ban was lifted.

One businesswoman said: “It’s our moment”.

Another user uploaded a video showed a woman driving slowly down a road.

–IANS

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