The women driving ban was lifted on King Salman’s order
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced to allow women to drive, ending a venerable policy that has become a global symbol of the oppression of women in the ultraconservative kingdom.
Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued an executive ordered that women be allowed to drive cars,in a historic decision that makes the Gulf kingdom the last country in the world to permit women behind the wheel.
The royal order will be implemented by 24 June 2018, was announced in a royal decree read live on state television and in a simultaneous media event in Washington.
Women will no longer need permission from a legal guardian to get a licence and will not need a guardian in the car when they drive, said the new Saudi ambassador to Washington DC, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
“I think our leadership understands our society is ready,” he told reporters.
Men and women danced in the streets to drums and thumping electronic music, Activist Manal al-Sherif, who was arrested in 2011 after a driving protest, took to Twitter following the king’s announcement to express her relief.
“Today, the last country on earth to allow women to drive… we did it”, she wrote.
Saudi leaders also hope the new policy will help the economy by increasing women’s participation in the workplace.
The kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, has been widely criticized for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving.
The decision highlights the damage that the ban on women driving has done to the kingdom’s international reputation and its hopes for a public relations benefit from the espite gradual improvement on some women’s issues in recent years and ambitious government targets to increase their public role, especially in the workforce.
The position of Saudi women gradually improved under late King Abdullah and since King Salman took over in 2015, the kingdom has been opening more areas for women through the government’s modernising reforms.
Rights groups and Saudi activists have long campaigned for the ban to be overturned, and some women have been arrested and jailed for defying the prohibition and taking the wheel.
In 2014, Loujain Hathloul was arrested after trying to cross the border from the United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia and detained for 73 days.
“I’m so proud of you,” Fahad Albuteiri, her husband and a well-known Saudi comedian, wrote on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia had been the last country in the world in which women were banned from driving – a fact that was frequently used by critics as proof that female citizens of the kingdom were among the world’s most repressed.