Saudi women hit the road as driving ban is lifted

Females in Saudi Arabia are now allowed to drive for the first time since the religiously conservative empire overturned the world’s only ban on female drivers.

The lifting of the prohibition on Sunday, which follows a sweeping crackdown on prominent women’s privileges activists who staunchly advocated for the right to push, was first announced last year included in the then newly-appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to change the country.

“Now every woman has the right to drive a car anywhere in the empire, ” state broadcaster al-Ekhbariya quoted traffic authorities speaker Colonel Samy bin Mohammad as saying on Sunday.

Arab saudi, which has some of the world’s smallest restrictions on women, started out issuing its first traveling licences for female drivers earlier this month.

About Thursday, it launched a three-day campaign called “place your trust in God and drive” to teach women on driving and raise awareness about protection regulations.

Activists in the area made welcome the lifting on the ban but cautioned that there were still many hurdles for women needing to get behind the wheel.

“This is a very good step, but of course there are so many challenges that women are facing with the lifting of the ban, ” said Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Middle East consultant for the Equality Today non-governmental organisation.

“The fees for having lessons are six times more than men, ” she told Al Jazeera from Jordan’s capital, Amman. “This is one of the limitations and this makes women not being able to access driving licenses in a fast way, in addition to the restricted driving schools in Saudi Arabia. ”

Decades-long prohibit
Women’s efforts to overturn the ban in a country that h return back decades.

In 1990, more than 40 women drove their cars in the administrative centre, Riyadh – the first public demonstration against the prohibition.
In 2007, activists submitted a petition to the then-King Abdullah, asking for the right to drive. The next 12 months, one of those active supporters and workers – Wajeha al-Huwaider – made a film of herself driving and published it online.

Dozens of women followed suit over the next few years.

Within a reversal of the long-standing rule, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a royal decree in September 2017 that said women would be allowed to drive “in accordance with Islamic laws”.

The move was identified as being part of the crown prince’s reform drive.
Concern over activists’ busts
But the arrest of women’s rights activists over the past few days has dampened the disposition among observers and people alike and cast uncertainty over Riyadh’s commitment to effecting change as part of its so-called Vision 2030 economical reform programme.

The prominent activists experienced long been advocating an ending to the prohibit on Saudi women generating and the abolishment of you guardianship system.
They will were branded threats to national security and falsely accused of being foreign providers. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

“These women have been known for years for campaigning and not for trying to hurt the interests of the nation, ” said Abu-Dayyeh, asking for their release.

“Nobody knows where they are now, whether they get access to legal professionals, whether they have access to justice, and we are really very much concerned with their lives and what’s happening with them. ”

The country’s guardianship system remains in position, under which a male family fellow member – usually the father, hubby or brother – must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities.

Activists in Saudi Arabia and the region say that the guardianship issue are at the key of the fight for women’s rights.

“We are calling on the government to finish the man guardianship system because this system restricts not merely can certainly freedom of movement but also in their daily life in phrases of breakup, custody and alimony, inch said Abu-Dayyeh.

“Women can’t travel abroad without the permission of these male mom or dad, they can’t study abroad, they can’t issue a passport – these are basic rights of women, and at the conclusion of the day they have to get them. inches

Updated: June 24, 2018 — 8:36 am

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