A few weeks ago, Finnish national Laura Alho made history as the first European woman to receive her driving license in the Kingdom. Today, more and more women are taking to the streets of Saudi Arabia, since the driving ban on female drivers was lifted on Sunday.
Right before the clock struck midnight on June 24th, women across the country sat behind the wheel — all eager to celebrate the historic lifting of the ban. Police officers began handing out roses to female drivers, and the hashtag #SaudiWomenDriving is now trending on social media.
Saudi women hit the roads for the first time in their country as the kingdom lifts ban on women motorists #SaudiWomenDriving pic.twitter.com/nSvI8VVXpg
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) June 24, 2018
Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban on Female Drivers
Last September, His Royal Highness King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud announced the lifting of the ban by royal decree. Now that women are allowed to drive, newspapers commended the King — as well as His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz — for their leadership, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Indeed, the lifting of the ban symbolizes a major breakthrough in Saudi Arabia, putting an end to the years-long struggle for women to be allowed to drive, among other things.
Let’s do it ? #SaudiWomenDriving pic.twitter.com/VKfGcXn7Y2
— أبرار فهد (@Broo_F) June 23, 2018
A Cause for Grand Celebration
On June 24th, the lifting of the ban was greeted with much fanfare and celebration. Saudi women took to the streets, flashing huge smiles along with their driving licenses. In a show of support, female drivers from Bahrain, Jordan, and Kuwait crossed the borders into Saudi Arabia.
Traffic police officers welcome the female driver with roses in the first day of driving. #SaudiWomenDriving pic.twitter.com/EkN3EhqaDg
— SaudiArabia GoodNews (@Saudi_GoodNews) June 24, 2018
Thousands Apply for Driving License
Notably, the number of women applying for driving licenses in the Kingdom soared upwards. The Ministry of Interior spokesman, Major General Mansour Al Turki, along with the Director General of the Ministry’s General Directorate of Traffic, Major General Mohammed Al Bassami, reported that over 120,000 women have applied for driving licenses, according to Gulf News.
Sara al Haj – driving to her cousin’s house. For the first time. #SaudiWomenDriving pic.twitter.com/psE384CtFs
— Lindsey Hilsum (@lindseyhilsum) June 23, 2018
Most of the applicants do not have prior or adequate driving experience, Al Turki said. Hence, they will be required to undergo at least 30 hours of practical training. Fortunately, special driving schools have been established, while car dealers prepare for prospective women buyers.
Meanwhile, there are women who are able to drive, but do not currently have foreign driving licenses that they can exchange for Saudi licenses. In this case, they would only have to undergo 6 hours of practical training.
A historic moment that symbolizes the #New #Saudi and its #Vision2030 in action …
Thank yous to everyone who made this possible…
New chapter is about to be written…#SaudiWomenDriving #SaudiArabian #LookAtMeNow#تستحقينها pic.twitter.com/ueiBHfrHxw
— Muna AbuSulayman منى (@abusulayman) June 23, 2018
Aside from being allowed to drive, things are rapidly changing for women in Saudi Arabia. They are now allowed to attend mixed public sport events, join the army, and other activities. For a country that has held on to tradition for a long time, these developments are a big step, indeed!