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28 September 2017, 12:12 | Ivan Casey
Yemen News Agency (SABA
While women in other Muslim countries drive freely, the Kingdom's blanket ban has attracted negative publicity for years.
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it would allow women to drive, the last country in the world to do so, sparking euphoria and disbelief among activists in the ultra-conservative kingdom, where social restrictions are increasingly being loosened.
The announcement follows a dazzling gender-mixed celebration of Saudi national day at the weekend, the first of its kind, which aimed to spotlight the kingdom's reform push, analysts say, despite a backlash from religious conservatives.
The women, many of them completely veiled except for their eyes, piled into 15 cars and took a drive through the capital.
Fawziah al-Bakr, a university professor who was among 47 women to participate in the kingdom's first protest against the ban in 1990, welcomed the "amazing" decision. Women could be arrested if caught while driving.
For example, the police will have to be trained to interact with women in a way that they rarely do in Saudi Arabia, a society where men and women who are not related have little contact.
Beyond the effects it could have on Saudi Arabia's image overseas, letting women drive could help the Saudi economy. If Saudi women are now able to drive, certainly here in the United States we would certainly welcome that.
For years, the kingdom has incrementally granted women more rights and visibility, including participation in the Olympic Games in London and Rio, positions on the country's top consultative council and the right to run and vote in local elections in 2015.
"I think our leadership understands our society is ready", Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said.
A royal decree was also issued to enable Saudi women to get a driving licence, allowing them to drive.
"We don't know what will happen next", said a woman in one of the cars. The move will go into effect in June, according to a statement on the official Saudi Press Agency. But Nauert isn't commenting on whether Saudi Arabia still needs to do more to ensure full rights for its female citizens. Her act was featured in the Frontline documentary "Saudi Arabia Uncovered", which showed footage captured secretly of alleged human rights violations inside the Kingdom.
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