Saudi Arabia is on the verge of a new cultural and economic era by retracting the driving ban against women. The royal decree will be in full effect by June 24, 2018.
This news brings joy to many Saudi women who have been fighting for their right to drive. Some have been protesting for as long as 27 years. According to the New York Times, the kingdom’s first protest was held in 1990, in which 47 women drove around the capital, many being arrested or fired from their jobs. Fawziah al-Bakr, one of the first protestors, said, “It is amazing. Since that day, Saudi women have been asking for the right to drive, and finally it arrived. We have been waiting for a very long time.”
According to CNN News, the modes of transportation available for women in Saudi Arabia are limited considering public transportation is not a viable option. Many women have to either hire a driver or ride with a male relative to work. CNN also reports, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal calculated that Saudi families spend an average of $1,000 a month on drivers, money that could be spent elsewhere. He and many other prominent Saudi figures believe that terminating the ban does not just provide cultural gain, but also economical advancements. Prince Khaled bin Salman, Saudi Ambassador for the U.S. said, “In order to change women’s participation in the workforce we need them to be able to drive to work. We need them to move forward, we need them to improve our economy.”
The royal decree hopes to not only increase women’s presence in the workforce, but also to better their international image. Saudi Arabia is known to be very conservative and oppressive towards women, and they are looking to change that appearance with the new laws allowing women to drive.
As stated by CNN News, in 2011, Manal al-Sharif was arrested for posting a YouTube video of her driving. This video induced death threats and led to her starting her campaign, Women2Drive. Her and so many other Saudi women’s protests have paid off, ending in a historic royal decree in their favor. Manal al-Sharif rightly said, “Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop.”
By: Katherine Conway‘21, Staff Writer