First Saudi women receive driver's licenses amid crackdown

Saudi Arabia women driving

First Saudi women receive driver's licenses amid crackdown

Global human rights organisations have reported the detention of at least 11 activists since mid-May. The first group of women today received their Saudi driving licences.

The women took a brief driving test before receiving their licenses as they'd already held driving licenses from other countries, including the U.K., Lebanon and Canada.

Last month, 17 activists were arrested during their campaign to shine a light on women's rights to drive in the country.

Women with worldwide driving licenses were able to swap theirs for a Saudi one, but were made to undergo a "practical test".

Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive, has long faced global criticism for what is seen as oppression of women.

"This is a kingdom that bans protests, that bans independent human rights organisations and trade unions", Begum said.

Previously, that meant that families had to hire private drivers to transport female relatives.

The issuance of license comes as part of a series of measures taken by the department in preparation for the implementation of the decision to allow women to drive. They also warned women that they would be subjected to sexual harassment if they drove. "European and world leaders must not stay silent in the face of gross and systematic violations of the human rights of activists and human rights defenders", said the UK-based rights group in a statement. Just four years ago, the country's top cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said that barring women from driving "was in the best interest of society" because it protected them from having to deal with an accident.

Activists and diplomats have speculated that the new wave of arrests may be aimed at appeasing conservative elements opposed to social reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS.

"Driving for women is not just about driving a auto; it enhances strength of character, self-confidence, and decision-making skills", she said in a statement issued by the government.

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