Royal Decree Lifts Saudi Driving Ban on Women

Saudi Arabia’s king has issued a royal decree allowing women to drive.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed the decree that will come into effect immediately, but will take months to roll out.

A high-level committee of ministers has been organised to examine arrangements of the enforcement of the order.

It will take up recommendations within 30 days from the date of the decree and will be implemented between June 23 and 24 2018, based on the Islamic calendar.

Under the decree women would not have to get male permission to take driving lessons and would be able to drive anywhere they liked.

Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, tweeted “thank God” following the announcement.

The United States department welcomed the move, calling it “a great step in the right direction.”

The Gulf Kingdom is the only country in the world that bans women from driving.

Only men were allowed licences until now and women who drove in public risked being arrested and fined, as well as cars confiscated.

Many families have had to employ private drivers to help transport female relatives.

Rights groups in the kingdom had campaigned for years to allow women to drive.

The decree will allow women to drive “in accordance with the Islamic laws.”

It comes following a gender-mixed celebration of Saudi National Day over the weekend, aiming to highlight the kingdom’s reform push.

However, conservatives have criticised the decision, accusing the government of “bending the verses of Sharia.”

“As far as I remember, Sharia scholars have said it was haram (forbidden) for women to drive,” one critic tweeted.

“How come it has suddenly become halal (permissible)?”

However, Amnesty International’s Philip Luther said believe that despite the development, it was “just one step” and there was a long way to go.

“We also need to see a whole range of discriminatory laws and practices swept away in Saudi Arabia.”

 

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