Saudi Arabia overturns ban on women driving

25 June 2018, 01:30 | Isaac Mcdaniel

Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers

Saudi Women Gear Up For New Freedom As Driving Ban Ends Tomorrow

Many Saudi women have ebulliently declared plans on social media to drive their mothers for coffee or ice cream as soon as the ban ends on Sunday, a mundane experience elsewhere in the world but a dazzling novelty in the desert kingdom.

But veteran Saudi activist Hala Aldosari says women remained second-class citizens and criticised the crown prince's "piecemeal approach" as serving the interests of the elite at the expense of women from more restrictive families.

A Palestinian woman residing in Saudi Arabia uses an electronic driving simulator during a go-cart driving workshop for women in the Saudi capital Riyadh on June 21, 2018.

She is also the first woman to import a Ferrari into Saudi Arabia, and has taken her 458 Spider to racetracks around the world to take part in track days, workshops and professional racing courses. Reports have emerged that some women's rights campaigners were arrested shortly before the end of the driving ban.

The four-minute long video features Tamtam cruising around the Orange Country with her friends in a vintage yellow Mustang convertible - like quintessential California girls.

Things quickly changed after a royal decree from the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, last September enabled women to obtain driver's licenses.

Human rights groups in the kingdom have campaigned for years to allow women to drive.

In 1990, during the first driving campaign by activists, women who drove in Riyadh lost their jobs and were barred from traveling overseas, even as women in other conservative Muslim countries drove freely.

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Some still face resistance from conservative relatives, and many accustomed to private drivers say they are reluctant to take on the country's busy highways. There were no reported casualties or damage immediately, but there was shrapnel on a street in the diplomatic quarter where most embassies are located and many foreigners live, a Reuters witness said.

"It feels handsome. It was a dream for us so when it happens in reality, I am between belief and disbelief- between a feeling of joy and astonishment", said Mabkhoutah al-Mari as she pulled up to order a drive-thru coffee on her way to work.

Yet at the same time, the government has jailed some women who campaigned to drive for years. Several other women are training at new state-run schools, and three million women are expected to drive by 2020.

"We all know that culture does change with time", he said.

She said: "Honestly I'm so happy about this decision. It will take me two months to save up enough to pay for the license fee", 20-year-old literature student Salwa al-Zahrat told Reuters, "and then it will take me three years to save up for a vehicle". The country, it seems, still has a long way to go before women's rights equal those of men.

In a report, the Gulf Research Centre said it was not immediately clear how much of the low labour participation rate for women was because of the driving ban.

Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, drove a Lotus Renault E20 vehicle around the Circuit Paul Ricard prior to Sunday's race.



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