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Saudi Arabia’s Ban on Women Driving Has Officially Come to an End

Hannan Iskandar drives her car in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, June 24, 2018. Photo: Reuters

Hannan Iskandar drives her car in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, June 24, 2018. Photo: Reuters

It is a historic moment that will forever be ingrained in the fabric of modern history. June 24 marks the date that King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s landmark decree, lifting the decades-old ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, comes to an end. In celebration, females around the Kingdom have been getting behind the wheel, just weeks after the first driving licenses were issued to women.

Females around the nation marked the momentous occasion by taking to the road just minutes after the stroke of midnight. “It is a historic moment for every Saudi woman,” television presenter Sabika al-Dosari told AFP. Shura Council member Mohammed Al-Khunaizi told Arab News that June 24 is “the biggest day in the history of the Kingdom”, adding that the reform will “empower women and also change the employment landscape of the country”. According to auditing company PricewaterhouseCoopers, an estimated 3 million women will be driving in the Kingdom by 2020.

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Saudi designer Layla Moussa told The National she didn’t think women in the Kingdom being able to drive “would happen in my lifetime”. “I’ve waited long enough and now to know that my daughter-in-law, and my three granddaughters will have a normal life, it’s settling,” she added. Police officers handed out roses to female motorists on the roads on June 24, while many women took to social media to share images and clips of themselves driving, with many using the hashtag #SaudiWomenDriving.

The lifting of the ban was first announced last September, and now women are legally able to drive themselves throughout the Kingdom, ending a dependence on private chauffeurs. The reform came as part of a sweeping raft of social and economic changes made as part of Vision 2030, a post-oil blueprint for Saudi helmed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The plan will allow Saudi Arabia to move towards a more modernized, tourist-friendly future, with aims such as increasing the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 22% to 30%. As of this year, females have also been allowed to attend sporting matches in select stadiums, and just last month Saudi Arabia passed a law to criminalize sexual harassment. 

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