In a historic step for the ultra-conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the first batch of driving licenses for women have been issued for 10 women for the first time on Monday. The Kingdom is about to officially allow women driving in streets in three weeks, Riyadh-based Arab News reported.
According to an official statement released by the General Directorate of Traffic, the 10 women who had their licenses issued have already been holding international licenses, and they took an eye exam and driving test before their licenses were issued.
The Saudi Ministry of Media also expected another 2,000 licenses will be issued in the coming few weeks as the ban lifting will start taking effect in June 24.
The only country in the world where women were not allowed to drive announced lifting the ban on women driving in September 2017, ending 30 years of oppression against women in a step triggered by the newly-appointed Crown Prince by that time, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), to pave the way for other reforms in the country.
A video has been widely-shared online for the first woman who received her driving license in the kingdom and hashtag: “اول_رخصه_قياده_نساييه_سعوديه” or "First driving license for a women in Saudi Arabia" has become trending sparking a debate among Saudi social media users.
Most social media posts on the hashtag were split between people satirizing the news,
Translation: Very soon.
Translation: “Few weeks after women will start driving their cars, we will realise the absurdity of the controversy we lived for decades [over women’s driving] and that it is more than normal. Then, we will start paying more attention to the fuel prices, the cars’ costs and the serious issues.. Like employment and income.”
Aya Batrawy, a journalist for the Associated Press from the Arabian Peninsula, praised the step as well.
Most reactions were positive, hailing the kingdom’s progress in women rights.
Others expressed their worries over the unusual step that might have several consequences on Saudi Arabia.
Translation: “This opens the door to hell, no one will stand its social consequences.”
Raif Badawi’s Twitter account, who is believed to be run by individuals close to him, has also seized the chance to remind people of Badawi’s issue.
Translation: "Congratulations. But remember that a peaceful person named Raif Badawi is still held in prison for more than six years now and one of his charges is defending women’s right to drive."
Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is witnessing a historic change ending years of oppression against Saudi women, people can’t overlook the latest arrests of more than 17 Saudi women rights activists who have been calling for women’s right to drive in the kingdom for years now.
On Monday also, state-run news agency SPA reported that eight activists were temporarily released after being accused of communicating with foreign organizations opposed to the kingdom. Nine activists are still held in detention. The news report did not mention the names of released people.
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