Saudi women will from today drive to their freedom
25 June, 2018, 03:47 | Author: Edward Snyder
Al-Hamad, who is from Saudi Arabia, drove a Formula One vehicle for a lap of the Le Castellet circuit Sunday, the day that a ban on women driving in the Gulf kingdom ended.
King Salman ordered the ban to be lifted last September as part of reforms pushed by his son in what is a conservative Muslim kingdom.
Women drove up and down a road in Al Khobar city at night and cheered as the police looked on, Reuters reported.
But although women can now drive, the change came along with an intensified crackdown on activists who campaigned for the right.
The kingdom earlier this month began issuing its first driving licences to women in decades, with some swapping their foreign permits for Saudi ones after a practical test. "But I don't think a woman should drive if she doesn't need to". "Even if there are some people who aren't happy with it I believe the support that we got was a lot more".
In an exclusive Al Arabiya English video, Dr. Taghreed Alohali - who works in healthcare - said that driving was an "actual necessity", to take her child to school and travel between workplaces and home.
Some six million women - or 65 percent of the female driving-age population - are expected to apply for a licence once the ban is lifted, according to the London-based consulting firm Facts Global Energy. In many cases, women say they'll wait before rushing to drive to see how the situation on the streets pans out and how male drivers react. These efforts include re-opening of public cinemas for the first time since the 1980s, the lifting of a ban on music concerts, and plans to allow women into sports stadiums.
Saudi women can not still mix freely with members of the opposite sex apart from in places like hospitals, medical colleges and banks.
Due to strict enforcement of Sharia law, women are not allowed to attend the same driving schools as men. "Mentally, it's already there, and physically we will see, as we start, more and more encouragement for both men and women".
A report by the Gulf Research Centre said that lifting the driving ban on women "may help them overcome some of the difficulties they face in accessing job opportunities".
"When the clock struck 12am on Sunday, June 24, I drove in my country for the first time", she said. "So the opportunity was incredible", she said of her first outing.
The prince's reforms risk sparking dissent within the kingdom. Almaeena told Arab News that the event was changing her life by "facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free".
Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an early advocate of women driving who was detained at the Ritz for three months, tweeted a video of his daughter driving.
A shadow has been cast over King Salman's reforms. The driving ban had been a stain on the country's reputation and hindered women's ability to contribute to the economy. That year she was held for more than 70 days.
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