10 Saudi Women Just Received Driver's Licenses for the First Time
All women will become eligible for driver's licenses on June 24.
The ceremony lasted no more than 15 seconds, but its symbolism is sure to last for much longer in Saudi Arabia.
Twitter user Saud Al Zamanan posted a video on Monday that shows a woman smiling as she was handed her Saudi driver’s license, becoming the first woman to be issued one in the conservative country.
In all, 10 women received driver’s licenses this week, according to a government statement, making good on an announcement from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs last September that Saudi Arabia would allow women to legally drive for the first time.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the licenses handed out on Monday replaced foreign licenses from countries like the UK.
الف الف الف الف مبروك ل بنات الوطن— سعود الزمانان (@saudalzmanan) June 4, 2018
إصدار اول رخصة قياده في السعوديه pic.twitter.com/GRUNxJxpaq
Women without foreign licenses will be eligible to apply for a Saudi license on June 24.
“All women who can drive will be eligible to drive and will be well-informed of all the violations so they will avoid them,” said Saudi Arabia's General Saeed bin Abdullah Al-Qahtani, assistant minister of interior for operations affairs. “I expect women’s driving to be safer and that detentions will be made in very rare cases.”
The move to issue licenses comes just weeks after 17 human rights activists were detained, some of them for demanding the government allow women to drive, and amid continued calls for an end to the country’s restrictive guardianship laws.
Although eight activists have since been released, some international observers have decried the most recent crackdown on dissent.
"We are back to square one," Australia-based Saudi activist Manal Al-Sharif told CNN after the detentions.
In recent years, Saudi women have nonetheless won some rights previously withheld from them, including the ability to attend sporting events, work certain jobs, and retain custody of their children in a divorce.
Despite these strides, women in Saudi Arabia still need male permission to travel internationally and work after nightfall, and are restricted from engaging in various public activities, including eating next to men at restaurants.
Though some women may now be in the driver’s seat, the road to equality nonetheless remains long.
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