Saudi women can finally drive: Glee for auto makers, doom for taxis?

Calvin Saunders
September 28, 2017

Saudi King Salman announced on Tuesday that women would no longer be banned from driving.

The decision is historic in the ultra-conservative nation, and fulfils the demand of women's rights activists who were detained for defying the ban on driving.

"I think our leadership understands our society is ready", Prince Khalid Bin Salman, also son of the king Salman, added.

Backwards Saudi Arabia, which treats women as little more than slaves or men's chattels, is reportedly the only country on the planet that forbids females from getting behind the wheel.

In July, the co-founder Mudassir Sheikha told The National how he aimed to expand in Saudi Arabia to take advantage of the fact that women were not allowed to drive.

Both companies had seen the Saudi market as one of the most lucrative, especially with government plans to bring a further 1.3 million women into the workforce by 2030.

He says the question of whether women should drive is "not religious nor a cultural issue", but he says he understands there might be "social issues", as not everyone in Saudi Arabia supports the changes.

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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.

Lori Boghardt, a Gulf specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the change is yet another sign that the Crown Prince is intent on adopting social reforms that will transform the Kingdom.

The US State Department called it a "great step in the right direction", echoing a similar comment from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Alwaleed said billions of dollars are being drained from the country's economy because of the money women are forced to spend on foreign drivers. "Since that day [the first protest in 1990], Saudi women have been asking for the right to drive, and finally it arrived".

But why were women not allowed to drive?

. They are free to drive anywhere. Numerous women were arrested, including Manal al-Sharif who tweeted of the new decree, 'Today the last country on earth to allow women to drive...we did it'.

"This is a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia". Many working Saudi women spend much of their salaries on drivers or must be driven to work by male relatives.

Full length abayas - a long coat worn over other clothes - must be worn by all women in public, although in recent years rules over the colour, decoration and how headscarves are worn have been relaxed.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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