Saudi Arabia shows a green signal to women drivers

2002

The Gulf kingdom is the only country in the world that bans women from driving.
Until now, only men were allowed licences and women who drove in public risked being arrested and fined.

But that is no more the case now. As Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has issued a royal decree allowing women to drive for the first time, ending a longstanding policy that has become a global symbol of the oppression of women in the ultraconservative kingdom.

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The decree said that women would be allowed to drive “in accordance with the Islamic laws”.

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Fawziah al-Bakr, a Saudi university professor was among 47 women who participated in the kingdom’s first protest against the ban in 1990. After driving around the Saudi capital, Riyadh, the women were arrested and some lost their jobs.

“Since that day, Saudi women have been asking for the right to drive, and finally it arrived. We have been waiting for a very long time.” said Fawziah.

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“In order to change women’s participation in the workforce we need them to be able to drive to work,” said bin Salman, who is a son of the current king and a brother of the crown prince. “We need them to move forward, we need them to improve our economy.”

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It is the most significant change yet to a hardly conservative social order in Saudi Arabia that has strictly set the boundaries for gender roles, and severely limits the role of women in public life.

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