Saudi Arabia lifts ban on female drivers
2 weeks ago, 09:43
Saudi Arabia has finally brought an end to its ban on women drivers as scores get behind the wheel in celebration.
The government allowed women to drive from June 24 after a royal decree announced an end to the ban last September.
Driving schools for women have been set up and female driving instructors who obtained licences abroad will be offered teaching positions, according to the Khalee Times.
As the clock struck midnight in the country, scores of women were seen getting behind the wheel for the first time ever.
Earlier this week Saudi female racer, Aseel Al Hamad was pictured marking its end with a special drive in a Jaguar F-TYPE on June 21.
The move places Saudi women at the centre of a major transformation being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plans also extend to more women entering gaining employment, with the hope of women taking up a third of the country's workforce by 2030.
Currently only 22% of Saudi women make up the workforce.
It was only a few years ago that religious police enforced an austere interpretation of Islam that banned music of any kind in public, much less the sound of a woman's voice.
They could detain groups of unmarried men and women for simply standing or sitting together. They ensured restaurants and shops closed for daily prayers and waved sticks at women who had their hair or face uncovered.
Unlike previous Saudi monarchs who took cautious steps on reform, King Salman has granted his son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a free hand to usher in dramatic moves.
Allowing musical concerts, opening cinemas, easing restrictions on gender segregation and reigning in the powers of the religious police have all been signature reforms of the young prince.
He's seen as the force behind the king's decision to lift the ban on women driving.
On Friday outside a shopping centre in capital Riyadh, young single men and women walked through an open-air exhibit where Saudi women and traffic police explained the details of handling a car.
A song with a woman's voice blared through the loudspeakers, singing: "I love you Saudia. My love, Saudia."
Just four years ago, this government-sponsored event was unthinkable.
"I can say that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, came at the right time. He is young and motivated," said Lulwa al-Fireiji.
The 60-year-old quickly clarified that while there was "nothing wrong" with previous Saudi rulers, now is the time for change.
"I will get a license, but I won't drive right away because the elders are always scared. But the young people are motivated and we need at this time someone like Mohammed bin Salman - motivated, God bless him, and daring. He will move the country (forward) faster," she said.
Granting women the right to drive is part of a wider blueprint for the future drawn up by the crown prince. The government is pushing Saudis to become less reliant on the government for jobs, handouts and subsidies.
Official statistics show women make up the overwhelming majority of job seekers in Saudi ...
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