Saudi Women get driving licenses for first time

A first group of Saudi women received Monday their driving licenses ahead of June 24, the date set for women to start driving.

State-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) removed the lid on the information.

“The first group of women today received their Saudi driving licenses,” it said.

Since the issuance of the decree allowing women to sit behind the wheel, late last year, tens of thousands of women took driving courses.

The decree has been credited to Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman who has been spearheading the country’s reforms. The young royal seeks to remove strict restrictions in view of making the country attractive for foreign investment and a tourist destination.

The reforms which have been welcome in the west, were questioned last month after several activists among whom eleven women campaigning for the right to drive were arrested and branded as “agents of foreign embassies”.

Eight activists including four of the women have been released pending conclusion of investigations. Nine others including four women remand in custody, reports say.

Their arrest has cast a doubt on the kingdom’s eagerness to open up and improve women’s rights.

Activists and diplomats have speculated that the new wave of arrests may be aimed at appeasing conservative elements opposed to social reforms pushed by the Crown Prince.

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