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Saudi Arabia's $90 billion reason to allow women to drive

Saudi Arabia's $90 billion reason to allow women to drive”

In a more secluded area, a couple dozen foreign and Saudi women gathered to celebrate, planning to drive together in a convoy looping the neighborhood.

Ms Al-Hamad is already the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation and on the Women in Motorsport Commission set up by Formula One's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

'Saudi Arabia has just entered the 21st century, ' he told his granddaughters in the back seat.

At the stroke of midnight local time on Sunday, extraordinary scenes unfolded on the roads of Saudi Arabia. Fearing a backlash ahead of the lifting of the ban on women drivers, Saudi Arabia's government passed a law against sexual harassment, with a penalty of up to five years in prison, and warned men not to stalk women drivers on the road.

Al-Ajaji had a US driver's license before obtaining a Saudi one and appeared comfortable at the wheel as she pulled up and parked.

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But many Saudi women nevertheless credit decades of fearless activism for the end of the driving ban.

Enaam Gazi Al Aswad is Careem's first Saudi female driver.

The lifting of the driving ban is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's programme to modernise some aspects of Saudi society.

But in Saudi Arabia, it is believed that the end of the driving ban will allow many more women to join the workforce in the kingdom, whose economy shrunk by 0.2 per cent a year ago due to low oil prices. "I'm also so proud of the women in my country for being fearless, for knowing how strong we are and for constantly having the drive that keeps pushing us forward to make positive change".

"There can be no real celebration on June 24 while the women who campaigned for the right to drive and their supporters remain behind bars", said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "He will move the country (forward) faster", she said.

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Television presenter Sabika al-Dosari said the end of the ban was "a historic moment for every Saudi woman" before driving a sedan across the border to the kingdom of Bahrain. I went for a drive at midnight when the ban was lifted and this morning you can see how people are very happy.

Women with licenses from Gulf countries will be required to convert them to Saudi licenses, according to the kingdom's traffic department. Another 2,000 more will join the first ten, all of which passed driving courses now offered at all-female university campuses.

When asked if he was looking forward to his daughters being able to drive, Al-Falih said, "absolutely". And the classes can be costly, running several hundred dollars. Until today many Saudi women had been forced to employ male drivers, which eats into their income while prohibiting others from owning cars. "I feel free like a bird".

"Worst of all will be if these small-scale reforms, and the silencing of feminists, slow the momentum for pushing the Saudi regime into making more meaningful change", she wrote in a U.S. newspaper.

"I definitely won't like to drive", said Fayza al-Shammary, a 22-year-old saleswoman.

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Still, women in the kingdom are denied many basic rights.



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