The wait for women to drive in Saudi Arabia has finally come to an end after the country officially lifted the Saudi women driving ban. The ban was lifted today Sunday 24th June 2018 by a royal decree. This means that from today, women in Saudi Arabia are finally free to drive legally.
It will be recalled that for many years now, Saudi women have been banned from driving themselves. However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has been pursuing some reforms to modernise the Saudi society and this could be part of that. This has prompted King Salman to pass a royal decree to abolish the ban so that women in Saudi Arabia are now able to legally drive themselves.
The crown prince is the one spearheading the Vision 2030 project which seeks to diversify the country’s economy from oil. This became imperative following dwindling oil prices in recent years.
This move was announced since last year September with the Saudi Government stating that up to 2,000 are expected to have obtained their Saudi driving licenses by the time the driving ban on women will be finally lifted. Since the announcement, many women in Saudi Arabia have been taking driving lessons with many still doing so as the time of this announcement.
The decision to finally allow women to drive has been well received and praised both in Saudi and around the world by human rights Campaigners.
Following the announcement, many Saudi women hit the road with their cars to celebrate. Many took to the wheels just minutes after the ban became effective at midnight to show you how happy and what a relief it is for the women in Saudi to finally be free to drive.
Before this lifting of this ban, Saudi Arabia was the only country where women were still restricted from driving. Saudi practices a strict form of Sunni Islam which is known as Wahhabism which is known for its gender segregation rules.
Saudi law strictly enforces the dictates of Wahhabism and women have to adhere to strict dress codes, and must not associate with unrelated men and in an exceptional case such as if they want to travel, work or access healthcare, they must be accompanied by a male guardian or have their written permission.
The baffling thing about this great news is the Saudi women activists who were arrested because of their campaign to end this driving ban are still being held in detention and according to amnesty international, these women will still stand trial in counter-terrorism courts with the possibility of long jail sentences.
One of the Saudi women activists being held in detention is very popular figure Loujain al-Hathloul. It means that despite the lifting of the Saudi women driving ban, there are still a lot of things the Saudi women are restricted from doing.
What does the lifting of Saudi women driving ban mean for the Saudi international image and local economy?