First women drive in Saudi Arabia

Saudi ArabiaIn this June 23, 2018 photo, 27-year old driving instructor Mabkhoutah al-Mari stands next to a test drivers car at the Saudi Driving School inside Princess Nora University in Saudi Arabia. As Saudi Arabia prepares to lift a ban on women driving, Saudi women are being pushed to the forefront of a major transformation being spearheaded by the country's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It also places women in the crosshairs of a decades-old pull-and-tug between Saudis agitating for more social openings and a majority that remains deeply conservative. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Eager women sat behind the wheel when the ban on women driving a car in Saudi Arabia was lifted at midnight on Saturday night.

 

“Finally, I can visit my family without asking my husband to drive me,” said 30 year old Wala Abu Negm as she sat in the driver’s seat in her husband’s Ford on the streets of Riyadh.

It was a historic moment for Saudi Arabian women who have so far had to lean on husbands, fathers, brothers and private drivers to make errands, go to work, visit friends or take the children to school.

For almost three decades, Saudi Arabian women, and men who support them, demanded that women should drive a car as in any other country in the world, including all other Muslim countries.

Ultraconservative religious leaders believe it’s a sin against God if women drive, and also warned that they could open to harassment. But criticism has been suppressed after King Salman announced last year that he would lift the ban.

Many Saudi Arabian women have lived abroad have had driver’s licenses and driven cars in other countries, but the few who dared to challenge the ban at home risked being arrested.

The overwhelming majority of Saudi Arabian women still do not have driver’s licenses, and there are long queues for taking driving lessons that have been available to women in closed areas for the past three months.

© NTB scanpix / #Norway Today

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