Saudi King Salman lifts driving ban on women

King Salman's decision ends a conservative tradition seen by rights activists as an emblem of the Islamic Kingdom’s repression of women

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia - Photo: Faisal Al Nasser/REUTERS
English 28/09/2017 11:05 Newsroom & Agencies Riyadh/REUTERS Actualizada 11:20
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On Tuesday, Saudi King Salman ordered that women would be allowed to drive cars, ending a conservative tradition seen by rights activists as an emblem of the Islamic Kingdom’s repression of women.

The royal decree ordered the formation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days and then implement the order by June 24, 2018, according to state news agency SPA.

It stipulated that the move must “apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards”, referring to Islamic law. It gave no details but said a majority of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body, had approved its permissibility.

For more than 25 years, women activists have campaigned to be allowed to drive, defiantly taking to the road, petitioning the king and posting videos of themselves behind the wheel on social media. The protests brought them to arrest and harassment.

The Islamic Kingdom has been widely criticized for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving, despite gradual improvement on some women’s issues in recent years and ambitious government targets to increase their public role, especially in the workforce.

Precisely, 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 modernizing reforms.

King Salman's decision could also have broad economic impacts, making it possible for women to get to work without a driver but also curbing the popularity of car-hailing apps like Uber and Careem.


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