Thursday, 19 July, 2018


Bahraini, Saudi women filmed crossing borders after driving ban lifted

Final hours of Saudi Arabia ban on female drivers Women in Saudi Arabia can finally drive
Bennie Garza | 24 June, 2018, 15:59

"The lifting of the ban is testament to the bravery and determination of the women's rights activists who have been campaigning on the issue since the 1990s, and the activists following up their ground-breaking work in subsequent campaigns since 2011", said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East Campaigns Director.

But despite this shift, Saudi women are still held up by restrictive guardianship laws where men in their lives must give approval before they get basic things such as renting a house. This move was announced a year ago in September, as part of the Kingdom's effort to remove the country's reputation of repressing women's rights.

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.

Overturning the decades-long ban, a glaring symbol of repression against women, is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's much-trumpeted reform drive to modernise the conservative petrostate.

Majdooleen, who is among the first Saudi women allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, refuels her auto as she drives work in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 24, 2018.

"Now women have their freedom", he added in a video posted on Twitter. One cleric even insisted that driving harmed women's ovaries.

Tweet reads: Saudi women crossing into their country through Al-Khafji border, Kuwait.

After women in Saudi Arabia, in a revolutionary move, were permitted behind the wheel, traffic officials on the road made a decision to showcase their support in a distinct way.

Another video showed a women driving slowly down a road.

Many Saudi women have ebulliently declared plans on social media to drive their mothers for coffee or ice cream as soon as the ban ends on Sunday, a mundane experience elsewhere in the world but a dazzling novelty in the desert kingdom.

A Saudi woman and her friends celebrate her first time driving on a main street of Khobar City on her way to Kingdom of Bahrain on June 24, 2018.

"I am not a provoker, not a vandaliser, not a terrorist, a criminal or a traitor", Abdelaziz said in a letter before her arrest, which was cited by HRW. The ban had relegated women to the backseat, unable to determine when and how to move around.

The order mentioned that a male guardian wouldn't be required for women to attain a driving license or accompany them while driving.

In preparation for the lifting of the ban, the government preemptively addressed concerns of sexual harassment - with a prison term of up to five years and a maximum penalty of 300,000 riyals ($80,000).

The decision to lift the ban in the tightly-controlled Muslim kingdom - where once-forbidden cinemas and concerts have also returned - is expected to boost the economy, with industries from vehicle sales to insurance to reap returns.

With the promise of greater independence, many women across the conservative kingdom signed up for driving lessons and road safety education classes at universities.

A Saudi government statement released on Saturday said that the activists had been arrested on charges that included "suspicious contact with foreign parties", without naming them.

Even some of the crown prince's ardent supporters have labelled the crackdown a "mistake".

Television presenter Sabika al-Dosari said the end of the ban was "a historic moment for every Saudi woman" before driving a sedan across the border to the kingdom of Bahrain.

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