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Saudi women hit the road as kingdom lifts ban on female drivers

Saudi women hit the road as kingdom lifts ban on female drivers

Allowing Saudi women to drive could help the kingdom reap as much income as selling shares in Saudi Aramco. She's the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, and serves as the Saudi Arabian representative at Women in Motorsport Commission for FIA.

"Saudi Arabia has just entered the 21st century", he said to his granddaughters in the back seat in the video.

At the stroke of midnight local time on Sunday, extraordinary scenes unfolded on the roads of Saudi Arabia. These efforts include re-opening of public cinemas for the first time since the 1980s, the lifting of a ban on music concerts, and plans to allow women into sports stadiums.

Now she can driver herself to work - or anywhere she wants to go.

Even with the end of the driving ban, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most restrictive countries for women, who need permission from legally mandated male guardians for important decisions such as foreign travel and marriage.

Things quickly changed after a royal decree from the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, last September enabled women to obtain driver's licenses.

For almost three decades, Saudi women and the men who support them have been calling for women to have the right to drive. Others say they'll wait a while, anxious they could face harassment.

As for male drivers on the road, "they were really supportive and cheering and smiling", she said. "He will move the country (forward) faster", she said.




Saudi women are officially allowed to get behind the wheel, after a decades-old driving ban was lifted. "During our fathers' and grandfathers' time, there was none of this women driving", said Wadih al-Marzouki, a retired government worker in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

Women with licenses from Gulf countries will be required to convert them to Saudi licenses, according to the kingdom's traffic department.

"It was ideal. Everything was smooth, I felt I belong in the seat", she said afterwards. Many haven't had a chance to take the gender-segregated driving courses that were first offered to women only a few months ago. Several other women are training at new state-run schools, and three million women are expected to drive by 2020.

Though Mr Gasnier doesn't expect women to rush out and buy a auto straight away.

After Fawzia al-Bakr drove through the streets of Riyadh in 1990 to challenge a ban on women driving in the conservative kingdom, she lost her job, received death threats and had to move house.

"We all know that culture does change with time", he said. "It is one of my rights and I will keep it in my purse", said 60-year-old Lulwa al-Fireiji.

Within minuted of the ban expiring at midnight, videos surfaced of women hitting the streets and driving through the kingdom.

A picture taken on January 19, 2018 shows Saudi women clad in the Abaya robes and men walking during the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Rumah, some 160 kilometres east of Riyadh.

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