RIYADH: Saudi women are officially allowed to drive from Sunday, after a decades-old driving ban was lifted.
The lifting of the ban, which follows a sweeping crackdown on women activists, is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform drive to modernise the conservative petrostate.
Potentially thousands of female drivers are set to take the wheel as the desert Kingdom ends the decades-old ban, long a glaring symbol of repression against women.
“It is a historic moment for every Saudi woman,” Sabika al-Dosari, a Saudi television presenter who drove minutes after the ban was lifted in the eastern city of Al-Khobar, told AFP.
The move is expected to be transformative for many women, freeing them from their dependence on private chauffeurs or male relatives and resulting in big family savings.
“Those days of waiting long hours for a driver are over,” Hatoun bin Dakhil, a 21-year-old pharmacy student, told AFP.
“We no longer need a man.”
Earlier this month, the Kingdom began issuing its first driving licences to women in decades, with some swapping their foreign permits for Saudi ones after undergoing a practical test.
Some three million women in Saudi Arabia could receive licences and actively begin driving by 2020, according to consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.