Saudi Oil Minister Says Women Drivers Will Boost Gasoline Demand

Pauline Gross
June 24, 2018

"This is a great achievement", billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal said as his daughter Reem drove a family SUV, with his granddaughters applauding from the back seat.

Starting June 24 at midnight local time (today at 10pm London time, 5pm NY time), women will finally be allowed to drive a auto on their own, capping a 30-year campaign to end the world's last ban on female drivers.

Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive on Sunday, June 24, overturning the world's only ban on female motorists, a historic reform that is expected to usher in a new era of social mobility.

Part of this plan is to increase the number of women in the workforce, and it's thought that the driving ban would have made this more hard to achieve.

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She said: "It feels weird, I am so happy".

"To all men I say, be gentle towards women" drivers, popular Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu said in an online video.

The lifting of the ban is also creating opportunities for women to make money from driving.

Alatrash has said that, as a Palestinian, he had become used to being stopped and asked for documents when he drove in his homeland, so he sympathised withhow many Saudi women felt under the ban.

Women in Saudi Arabia rejoiced and celebrated as they were legally allowed to drive cars from midnight (2.30 am Indian time) on Sunday.

On social media, many women expressed nervousness ahead of driving, saying they will gradually take to driving in busy roads or highways and that it will take time before the fear barrier is broken.

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Others are training at new state-run schools, with three million women expected to drive by 2020.

Until today, Saudi Arabia has been the only country in the world where women could not drive. "Were our efforts the reason the ban was lifted or was it a decision made independently of our struggles?"

It was only a few years ago that religious police- known for their long beards and shorter white robes- enforced an austere interpretation of Islam that banned music of any kind in public, much less the sound of a woman's voice on loudspeakers.

The government has preemptively addressed concerns of harassment - with a prison term of up to five years and a maximum penalty of SR300,000 ($80,000). Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia said it had detained 17 people for "undermining" the kingdom's security.

Amnesty has also called for wider reforms in Saudi Arabia, where women remain subject to male guardianship laws.

30 November 2014: Activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi are detained for 73 days an charged with terrorism-related crimes after attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates.

State-backed newspapers have published front-page pictures of some of the activists, the word "traitor" stamped across them in red. The reform agenda is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Human rights groups in the kingdom have campaigned for years to allow women to drive.

Granting women the right to drive is part of a wider blueprint for the future drawn up by the crown prince.

Even some of the prince's ardent supporters have labelled the crackdown a "mistake".

Other reports by GizPress

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