Saudi Arabia says it will start allowing women to drive

Lucy Bush
September 27, 2017

The move by King Salman ended the conservative Islamic kingdom's status as the only country where women behind the wheel is forbidden.

Saudi Arabia is to allow women to drive for the first time, state media say.

"Our leadership thinks that this is the right time to do this change because now in Saudi Arabia we have a young, dynamic, open society", he told reporters.

The decree, approved by the majority of religious scholars, said the benefits of allowing women to drive outweigh the negative affects, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

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The Saudi Ministry of the Interior said the decree means women will be allowed to drive in 10 months.

The U.S. State Department reacted to the news by saying it is a "great step in the right direction".

The black-and-white image shows King Faisal, Saudi Arabia's third monarch, signing the United Nations Charter in 1945, with the diminutive Jedi master Yoda perched next to him. "Today, the last country on earth to allow women to drive... we did it", she wrote.

A woman drives a vehicle in Saudi Arabia Oct. 22, 2013. There are laws that prevent women from showing too much skin while in public, for instance, and a guardian system requires a man to give women permission for everyday tasks.

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Low oil prices have limited the government jobs that many Saudis have long relied on, and the kingdom is trying to push more citizens, including women, into gainful employment.

Some reactions to Tuesday's announcement reflected that.

The decision could also have broad economic impacts, making it possible for women to get to work without a driver but also curbing the popularity of auto hailing apps like Uber and Careem.

The momentum to change the policy picked up in recent years with the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king's 32-year-old son, who has laid out a far-reaching plan to overhaul the kingdom's economy and society.

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Women in Saudi Arabia still face many restrictions under the extreme form of Islam that governs the kingdom.

Other reports by Info About Network

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