Women's Rights

Saudi women celebrate lifting of driving ban

By Sultan al-Barei in Riyadh

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A Saudi woman takes her place behind the wheel immediately after the lifting of the ban on women driving in the early hours of Sunday morning (June 24th). [Photo circulated on social media]

Traffic was heavy on the streets of Saudi Arabia on Sunday (June 24th) as the decision to allow women to drive went into effect, a police official said.

Hundreds of women put the decision into action in the early hours of Sunday, as traffic authorities took all necessary measures to facilitate the successful implementation of the decision to lift the ban.

Siham al-Qahtani, a third-year student at the University of Jeddah's Faculty of Education and Psychology, told Al-Mashareq she is "very happy" with the decision.

Al-Qahtani had her first experience behind the wheel in Jeddah on Sunday, when she drove her brother and mother to a restaurant to celebrate the occasion.

"The decision will change life for Saudi women and for Saudi society in general," she said, and will give women a greater freedom of movement and employment, as well as opening new frontiers.

From now on, she said, she will be free to go to college on her own, noting that she used to be at the mercy of her brother or father's schedule.

"Sometimes I would have to arrive early and wait for hours before my lectures began, because my family members had other engagements," she said.

Women did not wait

Many women in Saudi Arabia did not wait for Sunday morning to drive a car, but did so immediately after midnight, Saudi police officer Lt. Col. Jamal al-Nukhaifi told Al-Mashareq.

Just after the ban was lifted, the majority of cars in the streets of major cities appeared to be driven by women, he added, "to such an extent that it would seem to onlookers that only women were allowed to drive on some streets".

The police were on hand to ensure the decision's implementation went smoothly in all aspects, al-Nukhaifi said.

Meanwhile, he added, work to issue driving licenses continues apace, and 40 female traffic experts are being trained so they can respond in the event of traffic accidents.

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