Woman drivers could provide a boost to the Saudi Arabia auto market

Rijadh traffic on the King Fahd Road

After decades-long campaign run by courageous Saudi women for the right to drive, the conservative nation finally issued a decree authorizing the issuance of drivers' licenses for women in the kingdom.

Al-Shammary's tweet celebrates two dates: 9/26/2011, when Saudi women were granted the right to vote, and the same date in 2017, when the driving decree was issued.

While the lifting of the driving ban is a huge step for women's rights in Saudi Arabia, it's not a be-all, end-all solution by any means.

"Changing this is an global PR coup for Saudi Arabia and for Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, who is far more media-savvy and PR-conscious than his predecessors. Saudi Arabia has finally relented and made a decision to permit women to drive", rights watchdog Amnesty International said.

He's apparently been one who has been pushing reform within the country. Recent months have seen live concert performances in Riyadh - albeit to male-only audiences - while the powers of the once-omnipresent religious police have been curtailed.

US Ambassador bin Salman went one step further at a press conference in Washington DC, speaking of his hopes for the role of women in Saudi Arabia's future: 'In order to change women's participation in the workforce, we need them to be able to drive to work.

The royal decree ordered the formation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days and then implement the order by June 24, 2018, according to state news agency SPA. Every woman needs to have a male guardian, whether it's her husband, father, brother, or otherwise, who has the authority to make big decisions for her.

While the victory for women who have endured arrests, threats and exile in campaiging to be allowed behind the wheel should not be downplayed, the long-awaited good news that they can now drive has inevitably come with a dose of sketpicism. The women need not take permission from the male guardians.

Sharif has written a book on the campaign, "Daring to Drive", which encompasses her struggle to drive on Saudi streets and also mentions how in the country ultra-conservative codes define lives.

"We have. established a female-only call centre that has created hundreds of opportunities for women", pointed out Mr Elyas. At this point, the government will begin issuing women driver's licenses, which were never officially banned by law, but were unobtainable at any cost to women.

The only countries behind Saudi Arabia are Syria, Pakistan and Yemen.

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