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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Saudi Arabia issues its first driver's licenses to women

Saudi Arabia's controversial ban on women drivers will lift on June 24, and 10 women have already picked their licenses up.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), women holding kingdom-approved international licenses Monday started trading them in for national ones from the General Traffic Directorate (GDT).

"The exchange process is taking place on various spots around the kingdom to lay the ground for women sitting behind the wheels on the roads — a turning point set to be actualised on June 24," read an SPA statement.
Arab News shared a video of one of the first licenses issued in Riyadh, in which a woman receives her Saudi license from GDT officials.
According to Aljazeera, the Ministry of Information estimates that approximately 2,000 licenses will be issued to women drivers next week.
A few of the women already holding licenses have posted their new cards to Twitter.
The announcement to lift the ban on women drivers was made in September 2017, part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's so-called Vision 2030, an ambitious package of social-economic reforms to lessen the conservative kingdom's dependence on oil and return the kingdom to "moderate Islam." 
The ban lift was not exempt from conservative backlash. Last month, a number of women's rights activists, campaigning against male guardianship laws, for equality and a woman's independent right to drive, were arrested. In what's been dubbed a smear campaign by activists, they were labelled by state-backed media as "traitors" for allegedly undermining "the security and stability of the Kingdom, its social peace and national unity," according to the Saudi Arabia Public Prosecution.
The issuing of the country's first driver's licenses for women also comes just a few days after a polarising Vogue Arabia cover featuring Princess Hayfa Bint Abdullah Al Saud in the driving seat of a car. 
The cover received criticism as several of the arrested activists remain in custody — and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Eight of the activists have been "temporarily" released while their cases are investigated, according to CNN, but nine remain in custody. 
Neverthless, everything seems to be on track for women to hit the road without a male guardian on June 24. Saudi Arabia's General Saeed bin Abdullah Al-Qahtani, assistant minister of interior for operations affairs, has said all matters have been completed for the royal order to be implemented.
Driving force: A Saudi woman completes a driving course in Jeddah on March 7, 2018.

Driving force: A Saudi woman completes a driving course in Jeddah on March 7, 2018.
“All women who can drive will be eligible to drive and will be well-informed of all the violations so they will avoid them. I expect women’s driving to be safer and that detentions will be made in very rare cases,” Qahtani said in a statement published by news outlet Al Arabiya.
“Those who will drive cars are our daughters, wives and sisters, and it’s our duty to remind them of rules and prevent any harm against them,” he said. "Road security checkpoints will respectfully deal with women who will begin driving on June 24 while implementing the law and making sure there are no violations."
Source:  SHANNON CONNELLAN - Mashable

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