Screenshot of video posted by Wajeha al-Huwaider driving along public streets in Saudi Arabia, which was illegal in 2008. (YouTube)

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

It’s a landmark day for women in Saudi Arabia, who will soon be sitting in the driver’s seat after the country’s historic driving ban is lifted.

In a matter of hours, the ban on women drivers will come to an end. Women will no longer have to pay for private male chauffeurs to get around.

Saudi Arabia remained the only country in the world to have such a ban until midnight GMT.

The change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman, about 25 years after women were arrested for driving in the central city of Riyadh in 1990.

On International Women’s Day in 2008, Wajeha al-Huwaider made international headlines when she posted a video driving alone as part of a social media campaign called Women2Drive.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive for the first time

What followed, was a culmination of years of activism by women in the ultra-conservative country.

Women were issued driver’s licenses earlier in June in preperation for the law’s amendment. Since then, many have been taking lessons to prepare for hitting the road alone.

This week, Amnesty International called the reversal of the ban a “testament to the bravery and determination” of women’s rights activists – some of whom remain detained.

“Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef are among eight activists still being detained in Saudi Arabia for their peaceful human rights work,” Amnesty International said in a news release.

“Some have been detained without charge for more than one month, and may face trial before the counter-terror court and up to 20 years in prison for their activism.”

The international rights group said the lifting off the ban “must now be followed by reforms to end a whole range of discriminatory laws and practices,” including ridding of the contentious guardianship system, which means women are unable to travel, engage in paid work or higher education, or marry without the permission of a male guardian.

The driving ban will be lifted at midnight in Saudi Arabia, or 2 p.m. PST.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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