Saudi Arabia is set to allow women obtain driving licenses, overturning a cornerstone of Saudi conservatism that had been a cause célèbre for activists demanding reforms in the fundamentalist kingdom.
The morning after Saudi Arabia lifted its decades-old ban on women driving, the excitement at a sleek Riyadh cafe was palpable as female patrons streamed in for a latte. On the surface, this is a monumental move for the Islamic country, which remains the last nation in the world to let women behind the wheel. The new law means that women are allowed to apply for a license without having to seek approval from a male guardian, despite laws which grant men power over their female relatives.
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.
King Salman ordered the reform on Tuesday night and the new law will be implemented by June 24, 2018.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the change "a great step in the right direction for that country".
The issue has come to represent all of the human rights abuses Saudi women suffer under the Kingdom's male guardianship system, which gives a woman's husband, son or father control over nearly all aspects of her life.
Another Twitter user referred to auto insurance significantly increasing in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the decree.
Manal al-Sharif became the face of the women's driving movement after making headlines in 2011 when she posted a video of herself on Youtube driving in Saudi Arabia, the only country at the time that banned women from driving.
"This is a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia". The kingdom's dresscode requires women to wear an "abaya", a dress-like full length cloak.
Other Twitter users pointed out that Saudi women are still under the male guardianship system, which among other things, prevents them from travelling without permission of the men in their family.
In a desert country and with a land mass ten times the size of the United Kingdom, it's ridiculous that women haven't been allowed the means to transport themselves around until now.
A negative slogan "the people refuse women driving" also sprang up. In a separate statement, the government said many senior religious leaders found no, quote, "impediment" in letting women drive.
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