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Saudi Arabia issues first driving licences to women

05 June 2018

Saudi women will be allowed to drive on the kingdom's roads starting June 24.

In announcing the government's decision to lift the ban on female drivers previous year, Prince Salman said women will not need approval from their guardians to get a driver's license and will be able to drive alone in the vehicle.

"Expectations are that next week an additional 2,000 women will join the ranks of licensed drivers in the kingdom", the ministry said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

In a historic moment, Saudi Arabia on Monday issued driving licenses to 10 women. This has begun to change in recent years, with more young Saudi women than men graduating from universities and many women working in fields that they used to be locked out of. Picture: Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters. Four years ago the country's top cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said barring women from driving "was in the best interest of society" because it protected them from having to deal with an accident.

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Saudi women have pushed for the government to lift the ban and some have even taken video or selfies of themselves behind the wheel as a form of protest.

Three other veteran women's rights activists, who had taken part in the first protest in 1990 against the kingdom's ban on women driving, were also briefly detained.

The self-styled reformer has also ended a decades-long ban on cinemas, allowed mixed-gender concerts and clipped the powers of the long-feared religious police.

Saudi Arabia has had laws barring women from driving for decades, but will officially lift it on June 24 - a move that has been widely celebrated. One pro-government Twitter account posted images of some of them with the word "traitor" written in red across their faces.

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A Saudi government statement released on Saturday said that the activists had been arrested on charges that included "suspicious contact with foreign parties", without naming them.

Instagram down as problems on app are reported throughout the night'The general directorate of traffic started replacing worldwide driving licences recognised in the kingdom with Saudi licences'.

Campaigners have dismissed the reports as a "smear" campaign and the crackdown has sparked a torrent of global criticism.

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Saudi Arabia issues first driving licences to women