Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has been widely criticised for being the only remaining country to forbid women to drive. The shock announcement is part of Saudi Arabia's ambitious reform push aimed at adapting to a post-oil era and improving a global reputation battered by its human rights record.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a decree on Tuesday, saying that women can now drive in public. She believes this new law, that will take effect June 2018, is empowering for all women, including in our state.
Dr. Madawi al-Rasheed, a Saudi academic, congratulated the women activists in a tweet and wished for "political and civil rights and an elected government" to follow. The Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Khaled bin Salman, says women will not need to get permission from a legal guardian to get a license nor need one in the vehicle when they drive.
Al-Sharif, 38, has long campaigned for women's rights in Saudi Arabia and this year published a memoir "Daring To Drive", which became a worldwide bestseller.
Those arrests were not directly related to the driving ban, but apparently to an ongoing crisis with Gulf rival Qatar, said Jane Kinninmont from London-based Chatham House.
Last year, the country's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, laid out a bold vision to reshape the conservative Islamic society.
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First, an unequivocal congratulations to the women of Saudi Arabia, who have achieved a historic victory. Yet despite this high level of education, more than a third of women remain unemployed.
But most who used the negative hashtag were women mocking men opposed to them driving. It was just five years ago this November that authorities began sending men text messages whenever the women they oversaw left the country. The ban holds women back from jobs, leaves them dependent on male relatives or drivers.
The right to drive is a seriously hard-won battle that Saudi Arabia's women should properly celebrate.
In a royal decree, the monarch directed minister of interior to constitute a high-level ministerial committee to carry out studies about the necessary arrangements to implement the royal decree. The scholars see no reason not to allow women to drive as long as there are legal and regulatory guarantees to avoid the pretexts (that those against women driving had in mind), even if they are unlikely to happen.
The decision has sparked euphoria and disbelief among activists in the kingdom, which was the only country in the world to still ban women from driving. The country will use the preparatory period to expand training and licensing facilities.