Published: Wed, June 06, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

First Saudi women get driving licences

First Saudi women get driving licences

They include women who were arrested before for driving in Saudi Arabia in defiance of the ban and also lobbied for the lifting of restrictions requiring women to obtain the permission of a male guardian before marrying, travelling overseas or getting released from prison. The women reportedly had to take a brief driving test and eye exam before receiving their new documents.

Several activists who campaigned for the right to drive remain under arrest, facing possible trial.

In recent weeks, a number of people have been arrested on charges of trying to undermine Saudi Arabia's security, but groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said the arrests homed in on activists.

Rights groups have identified numerous detainees as women campaigners for the right to drive and to end the conservative country's male guardianship system. Reuters reported in May that police arrested at least five people who protested the country's ban on women driving.

This will allow women across the Kingdom drive their cars from June 24. "European and world leaders must not stay silent in the face of gross and systematic violations of the human rights of activists and human rights defenders", said the UK-based rights group in a statement.

State-backed media accused the detainees of betraying their country and acting as "agents of embassies".

Currently, Saudi women are legally required to be driven by male family members, husbands or chauffeurs. They also warned women that they would be subjected to sexual harassment if they drove.

Fatima Al-Zahrani, a medical student, said, "I've been driving for nearly eight years now in Canada or whenever I travel to other countries and I like the independence and the ability to explore".

However, to boost the economy and ease worldwide criticism, Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted major cultural changes and allowed women to drive.

The issuance of license comes as part of a series of measures taken by the department in preparation for the implementation of the decision to allow women to drive.

Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, has described the crackdown as "perplexing". It may also be a message to activists not to push demands out of sync with the government's own agenda, they said.

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