News World Saudi Arabia to allow women the right to legally drive cars
Updated:

Saudi Arabia to allow women the right to legally drive cars

Saudi women given right to drive
Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif, who now lives in Dubai, where she is allowed to drive. Photo: Getty
Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Saudi Arabian women will finally be able to legally drive cars in 2018, thanks to a new decree from King Salman.

Women will be allowed to drive for the first time next summer, fulfilling a key demand of women’s rights activists who faced detention for defying the ban.

The kingdom was the only the country in the world to bar women from driving and had garnered negative publicity internationally for years.

The move, which has been welcomed by the United States, represents a significant opening for women in Saudi Arabia, where women’s rights have steadily and slowly gained ground over the years. Saudi women remain largely under the whim of male relatives due to guardianship laws.

King Salman and his young son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have tested the waters though, allowing women into the country’s main stadium in the capital, Riyadh, for national day celebrations this month.

The stadium had previously been reserved for all-male crowds to watch sporting events.

Women’s rights activists since the 1990s have been pushing for the right to drive, saying it represents their larger struggle for equal rights under the law.

Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi Arabian activist who helped start a women’s right to drive campaign in 2011, said “Saudi Arabia will never be the same again”.

“The rain begins with a single drop,” she said on Twitter.

She shared a picture of herself in the driver’s seat of a car, showing a peace sign.

Some ultraconservative clerics in Saudi Arabia, who wield power and influence in the judiciary and education sectors, had warned against allowing women to drive.

They argued it would corrupt society and lead to sin.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency and state TV reported the news late Tuesday evening, saying King Salman decreed that both men and women to be issued drivers’ licenses.

Women, however, will not be allowed to obtain licenses immediately. A committee will be formed to look into how to implement the new order, which is slated to come into effect in June 2018.