Saudi Arabia issues first driving licences to women

Ten women swap foreign licences for Saudi ones, weeks before kingdom removes a controversial ban on female motorists.

    A royal decree signed last year allowing women to drive takes effect on June 24 [Saudi Information Ministry via AP]
    A royal decree signed last year allowing women to drive takes effect on June 24 [Saudi Information Ministry via AP]

    Saudi Arabia started issuing its first driving licences to women weeks before the kingdom lifts a ban on female drivers. 

    The general traffic directorate on Monday began replacing internationally recognised driving licences held by women with Saudi ones across the country, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

    Ten Saudi women were issued national licences after they swapped their foreign ones at the General Department of Traffic in multiple cities, the government said. 

    "The exchange process is taking place on various spots around the kingdom to lay the ground for women sitting behind the wheels on the roads - a turning point set to be actualised on June 24," SPA said. 

    About 2,000 licences are expected to be issued for women next week, according to a statement by the ministry of information.

    Video of the first woman to be issued a license in the capital, Riyadh, circulated on social media.

    Saudi Arabia has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women.

    In a reversal of a long-standing rule, a royal decree signed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in September 2017 said women would be allowed to drive "in accordance with the Islamic laws". 

    Prior to the royal order, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that did not allow women to drive.

    Last month, a number of women's rights activists, who staunchly advocated for the right to drive, were arrested and branded threats to national security. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

    The arrests have cast doubt over Riyadh's commitment to effecting change as part of its much-touted Vision 2030.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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