Saudi women are in the driver’s seat for the first time in their country after the world’s last remaining ban on women driving was finally lifted. It is a historic moment for women who have had to rely on their husbands, fathers, brothers and drivers to run basic errands, get to work, visit friends or even drop children off at school. The ban had relegated women to the backseat, restricting when and how they move around. Saudi Arabia has finally lifted its ban on women driving But after midnight on Sunday, Saudi women finally joined women around the world in being able to get behind the wheel of a car and simply drive.
‘I’m speechless. I’m so excited it’s actually happening,’ said Hessah al-Ajaji, who drove her family’s Lexus down the capital Riyadh’s busy Tahlia Street after midnight. England fans arrested in Russia ahead of World Cup game against Panama Ms Al-Ajaji had a US driver’s licence before obtaining a Saudi one and appeared comfortable at the wheel as she pulled up and parked. As for the male drivers on the road, ‘they were really supportive and cheering and smiling,’ she said. Samar Al-Moqren drove her car through the streets of the Saudi capital Riyadh for the first time just after midnight
Hannan Iskandar gets ready before she starts to drive her car in her neighbourhood, in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, just after midnight. In a few hours, she says she will drive herself to work for the first time in Saudi Arabia. For nearly three decades, outspoken Saudi women and the men who supported them have called for women to have the right to drive. They faced arrest for defying the ban as women in other Muslim countries drove freely. In 1990, during the first driving campaign by activists, women who got behind the wheels of their cars in the capital, Riyadh, lost their jobs, faced severe stigmatisation and were barred from travel abroad for a year. Friends and family members showed support as the women hit the road for the first time.
Many have not had a chance to take the gender-segregated driving courses Ultraconservatives in Saudi Arabia had long warned that allowing women to drive would lead to sin and expose women to harassment.
Ahead of allowing women to drive, the kingdom passed a law against sexual harassment with up to five years in prison for the most severe cases. Criticism against women driving has largely been muted since King Salman announced last year that they would be allowed to drive. With state-backed support for the move, many Saudis now say they support the decision allowing women to drive and see it as long overdue. Not all women are driving at once, though. The overwhelming majority of women in Saudi Arabia still do not have licences. Many have not had a chance to take the gender-segregated driving courses that were first offered to women only three months ago. There is also a waiting list of several months for the classes on offer in major cities. Saudi female racing driver, Aseel Al Hamad prepares to drive for the first time in her home country, to commemorate the ban for women driving being lifted, in a Jaguar F-type
Female racing driver Aseel Al Hamad celebrated the end of the ban with her first lap in her home country. Aseel, the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation said: ‘I’ve had the privilege to drive on many race tracks around the world. ‘But today has been a very special day for me because it’s the first time ever I’ve driven in my beloved country.’