Making History, Saudi Arabia Issues Driver's Licenses to 10 Women

Saudi Arabia issues first driving licenses to 10 women

Saudi Arabia issues first driving licenses to 10 women

Ten women in Saudi Arabia were issued driver's licenses this week, the first women in decades to be given the paperwork that will allow them to legally drive in the kingdom.

The delay, according to Saudi authorities, was necessary to allow for women to complete classes on driving and ensure the safe introduction of thousands of new drivers to Saudi roads.

King Salman issued a royal decree in September lifting the ban on women driving in the country.

A video documenting the first time that a driver's license has been issued to a woman in Saudi Arabia has gone viral.

In preparation for the far-reaching effects of the new policy, a number of recent automotive exhibitions in Riyadh and the port city of Jeddah have attracted crowds of women seeking to learn about automobile culture, vehicle dealers and insurance companies.

The surprise move to issue some women licenses early came as activists who had campaigned for the right to drive remain under arrest.

A group of Saudi women received their driving licenses on Monday by replacing their recognized worldwide driving licenses with Saudi ones.

But casting a shadow on his reforms, Saudi Arabia last week said it detained 17 people for "undermining" the kingdom's security, in what campaigners have dubbed a sweeping crackdown against activists. Three women who participated in a 1990 protest of the driving ban also were arrested but have since been released.

Saudi Arabia is the only nation in the world that does not permit women to drive.

Fatima Al-Zahrani, a medical student, said, "I've been driving for nearly eight years now in Canada or whenever I travel to other countries and I like the independence and the ability to explore".

Saudi authorities have since released less than half of those detained.

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.

A Saudi woman speaks to an officer before her driving exam. "The moment I got the news about driving was unbelievable for me", said Rema Jawdat, a risk analyst, at the Ministry of Economy and Planning.

Previous reports in state-backed media branded some of the detainees traitors and "agents of embassies".

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