A Saudi woman, Amira, who works in Aramco, drives to her office in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Saudi Arabia officially lifted its driving ban on women on Sunday, allowing them to drive for the first time since the 1950s.
Women across the country celebrated the lifting of the longstanding policy, with many getting behind the wheel and driving around the streets.
Asmaa Assidmi was one of the women in Riyadh who lawfully exercised the newfound freedom.
“I’m so happy today. It’s a historic day for Saudi women. All women now have the chance to drive, I don’t even know how to express my feelings,” said the excited Assidmi, who just drove herself to work Sunday morning.
Her husband Luay Assidmi, who accompanied her during the trip, said the lifting of the driving ban for women will benefit families and represent a great step forward for the kingdom.
“This means she now has more independence. Not just independence, but she will also have the same responsibilities in our family as a man, just like two people driving one car, which means sharing responsibilities. And what’s truly important is that she can now make her own choices, instead of relying on me for a decision on everything,” he said.
Prince Al-waleed bin Talal, renowned businessman and a member of the Saudi royal family, lauded it as one of the “greatest decisions” in the country’s history in a video posted on social media.
The lifting of the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia means not only freedom and openness for Saudi women but also an opportunity for many businesses. Local media has forecast a 6-10 percent growth for the domestic car market, and car dealers are also preparing to embrace the female car market.
Themed events on women driving have also been held in major cities across the country, including a recent exhibition held by the Saudi Telecom Company which was dedicated to teach woman how to drive.
“We have specifically set up this exhibition area to give Saudi women a taste of what it’s like to drive a car. Before they get their license they can come here and drive the simulator. And also, through our simulation of how cars rolling in an accident, they will be able to understand the importance of wearing a seatbelt while driving,” said Sulaiman Almshari, manager of the company.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud declared the lift of the ban on female driving in September last year.
In line with the decree, Saudi transport authorities started to issue driving licenses to women on June 4.— Reuters