Starting off June 23th, the Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving was officially lifted, after several years since it had been applied, thus bringing the conservative Gulf nation into line with the other countries in the world.
Saudi Arabia was the only country left in the world where women were not allowed to drive. Families who needed to move from one place to another had to hire private chauffeurs.
Nevertheless, this change comes as a result of a crackdown on a group of activists who issued numerous campaigns for the right to drive. Several rights activists have been either arrested or even imprisoned for taking part in these campaigns.
After the ban was lifted on last Sunday, more than 120,000 women were interested in obtaining a driving license and even applied for one, according to the Ministry of Interior and Traffic Directorate officials.
“Demand for obtaining driving licenses is very high,” the official spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al Turki, explained.
Some women were even more eager to get behind the wheel and drive, as it was the case of Mona Al-Fares, a doctor, who decided to get in the car even before midnight and to wait for the ban to lift. Both her husband and her children joined her in the car and went on a ride on the streets of Jeddah.
“I feel like I’m surprised. Am I really driving in my own country? I feel happy, relieved. I feel like I’m free,” she said in an interview.
The announcement related to women’s rights to drive was made last September. This is a huge change that liberated numerous women from the controversial constraints that they had to hire male chauffeurs even when it came to small distances.
“Those days of waiting long hours for a driver are over. We no longer need a man,” said a pharmacy student, Hatoun bin Dakhil, age 21.
Now, women in Saudi Arabia have more chances to get hired and, why not, start their own businesses. This is, in fact, an essential part of an ambitious plan to completely change the country’s economy, which is also known as Vision 2030.
Even though this is a big step towards a normal life, there are still many other restrictions applied in this country that force women to remain under the male guardship system. Some of these restrictions are related to women’s rights to marry, to travel or work.