Saudi Arabia begins issuing driving licenses to women

05 June, 2018, 20:42 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Saudi Arabia issues first driving licenses to 10 women

Global news reporters were not present to witness the swap in the only country in the world which prevents women from getting behind the wheel.

Nine suspects, including four women, remain in custody after they "confessed" to a slew of charges such as suspicious contact with "hostile" organisations and recruiting people in sensitive government positions, according to SPA.

Among those detained is Loujain al-Hathloul, who was held in jail for more than 70 days back in 2014 after attempting to drive from the UAE into Saudi Arabia.

Though the issuing of licenses appears to mark a step forward for Saudi Arabia, considered one of the world's most oppressive countries for women, the arrest last month of several women's rights activists ― including some who'd advocated for the right to drive ― has cast a dark shadow on the occasion.

Authorities said eight of the detainees had been "temporarily released" until their investigation is completed.

Other women across the country have been preparing for the right to drive on 24 June by taking driving courses on female-only college campuses. They not only risked arrest by pushing for the right to drive for years, but also called for an end to guardianship laws that give male relatives final say over a woman marrying or travelling overseas.

Previous reports in state-backed media branded some of the detainees traitors and "agents of embassies". Saudi women had also been banned from voting until 2015, when they were allowed to vote in local elections.

Others were detained over the years during various efforts by women's rights activists to drive.

In September a year ago, Riyadh removed the driving ban on women as part of reforms to undo the damage the kingdom has suffered for decades of human rights violations both inside and outside of Saudi Arabia. They also warned women that they would be subjected to sexual harassment if they drove.

The lifting of the driving ban was announced last September and is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's programme to modernise some aspects of Saudi society. Reuters reported in May that police arrested at least five people who protested the country's ban on women driving.

The spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, has described the crackdown as "perplexing".

"Saudi Arabia's allies - in particular the US, UK and France - must push Saudi Arabian authorities to end their targeted repression of human rights activists in the country".


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