Riyadh (June 24, 2018): Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive from Sunday, overturning the world’s only ban on female motorists, a historic reform that is expected to usher in a new era of social mobility.
The lifting of the ban, which follows a sweeping crackdown on women activists, is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform drive to modernize the conservative petrostate.
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Potentially thousands of female drivers are set to take the wheel as the desert Kingdom ends the decades-old ban, long a glaring symbol of repression against women.
“It is a historic moment for every Saudi woman,” Sabika al-Dosari, a Saudi television presenter who drove minutes after the ban was lifted in the eastern city of Al-Khobar, said
The move is expected to be transformative for many women, freeing them from their dependence on private chauffeurs or male relatives and resulting in big family savings.Earlier this month, the Kingdom began issuing its first driving licenses to women in decades, with some swapping their foreign permits for Saudi ones after undergoing a practical test.
Some three million women in Saudi Arabia could receive licenses and actively begin driving by 2020, according to consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
A handful of female driving schools have cropped up in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, training women to drive cars and also Harley Davidson motorbikes — scenes that were unimaginable even a year ago.
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.