Saudi women hit the road as driving ban is lifted

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GB news 24 desk//

Women in Saudi Arabia are now allowed to drive for the first time after the religiously conservative kingdom overturned the world’s only ban on female motorists.

The lifting of the prohibition on Sunday, which follows a sweeping crackdown on prominent women’s rights activists who staunchly advocated for the right to drive, was first announced last year as part of the then newly-appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to reform the country.

“Now every woman has the right to drive a car anywhere in the kingdom,” state broadcaster al-Ekhbariya quoted traffic authorities spokesman Colonel Samy bin Mohammad as saying on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, started issuing its first driving licences for female motorists earlier this month.

On Thursday, it launched a three-day campaign called “place your trust in God and drive” to educate women on driving and raise awareness about safety regulations.

Activists in the region welcomed the lifting on the ban but cautioned that there were still many hurdles for women wanting to get behind the wheel.

“This is a very good step, but of course there are so many challenges that women are facing now with the lifting of the ban,” said Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Middle East consultant for the Equality Now non-governmental organisation.

“The fees for having lessons are six times more than men,” she told Al Jazeera from Jordan’s capital, Amman. “This is one of the restrictions and this makes women not being able to access driving licenses in a fast way, in addition to the limited driving schools in Saudi Arabia.”

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