Date
16 October 2017
Saudi women have won the right to drive, scoring a major victory in their battle for equal treatment with men in the conservative Islamic kingdom. Photo: Reuters
Saudi women have won the right to drive, scoring a major victory in their battle for equal treatment with men in the conservative Islamic kingdom. Photo: Reuters

Saudi king issues decree allowing women to drive

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Tuesday ordered that women be allowed to drive cars, carrying out a major reform that rights activists have been demanding for a long time in the Islamic kingdom.

Through a royal decree, the king ordered the formation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days and then implement the order by June 24, 2018, Reuters reports, citing Saudi state news agency SPA.

The decree stipulated that the move must “apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards”, referring to Islamic law.

It gave no details but said a majority of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body, had approved its permissibility.

An hour after the official announcement in Saudi Arabia, a jubilant Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Khaled bin Salman, said it was “an historic and big day in our kingdom”.

“I think our leadership understands that our society is ready. I think it’s the right decision at the right time,” Reuters quoted the ambassador as saying.

Positive reactions quickly poured in from inside the kingdom and around the world, with the US State Department welcoming the move as “a great step in the right direction”.

For more than 25 years, women activists have campaigned to be allowed to drive, defiantly taking to the road, petitioning the king and posting videos of themselves behind the wheel on social media. The protests brought them arrest and harassment.

Activist Manal al-Sherif, who was arrested in 2011 after a driving protest, took to Twitter following the king’s announcement to express her relief.

“Today, the last country on earth to allow women to drive… we did it,” she wrote.

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RC

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