It’s been a long time coming, but the ban on women driving has been officially lifted in Saudi Arabia.
And women have been taking to the streets, getting behind the wheel and driving cars legally for the first time in decades. Some were driving at the stroke of midnight on Sunday morning, to officially mark the end of the ban.
As one doctor, Mona Al-Fares, told CNN while in her car with her husband and children just as the ban was about to end. “I feel like I’m surprised — am I really driving in my own country? I feel happy, relieved. I feel like I’m free.”
— Arab News (@arabnews) June 24, 2018
The move comes after the change was announced last September, with a number of women issued licences in the past few weeks. It means that women will no longer need to hire male drivers to get around, and could see many more joining the workforce, travelling and building businesses.
#finally this one is for you #dad 🚘 4 those who couldn’t witness this day 🙏 #ahhh #choice #saudiwomen #driveksa Another + #saudi international driving license. Although many say there’s no need it but #just-incase #midnight #hittheroad #women #saudiarabia #24june #saudiwomendriving #staysafe #staypositive Special thanks to my co-pilot📷 ladies, where r u… can’t see u? Passed my bed time but totally #worthit it 😂#طار_النوم #خلاص ******************************************************و أخيرا 🚘 هذه لك بابا ولكل أحد ما قدر يشهد هذا اليوم #التاريخي وبالنسبة للرخصة الدولية يقولوا مانحتاجها في الخارج للاحتياط مرة سهلة تطلعوها #يلا #سوقوا #قيادة_المراة_في_السعودية #المرأة_السعودية_تسوق #سواقة #السعودية #المرأه #رخصة_سيارتك #سوقي_كلنا_معك #لحظة_تاريخية
But not everyone is happy. Some men have been taking to social media in recent weeks to share their frustration, using an Arabic hashtag that translates to ‘You won’t drive’. Since then women have hit back and even trolled the hashtag, including by posting photographs of their dream cars.
And the ban on women driving is far from the end of outright gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia, where a number of women’s rights activists continue to be detained, according to Amnesty — including some of those who fought to get this ban lifted.
Saudi Arabia has a long way to go, given driving is just one of a huge list of things women still can’t do. Opening a bank account without permission from a male guardian is still banned, as is getting married or divorced without permission, easily acquiring a getting passport and receiving an equal inheritance. Women can’t mix freely with male friends, nor can they wear what they want.
And when it comes to applying for business loans or licenses, women also face hurdles — including having to call on men who can confirm they are of good character.
Fadya Basmer, 23, is one of the first female taxi drivers in Saudi Arabia after the ban was lifted at midnight. When we were out on our drive, a little girl saw her in the driver’s seat and smiled and couldn’t believe her eyes. “It’s about inspiring girls to do what men do. Nothing less” Fadya said. #saudiarabia🇸🇦 #saudiwomen #Jeddah
#SaudiWomenDriving . Women in Saudi Arabia women are legally allowed to drive now. The ban, lifted at midnight on Sunday, June 24. This is the first time since 1957 that women will be allowed to drive in the Kingdom. . Live updates here: http://bit.ly/2KjyTiD . Picture: Hamad I Mohammed, Zohra Bensemra / Reuters, AFP . . . #SaudiArabia #SaudiWomen #Vision2030