Last month, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman announced that the nation’s women will be legally allowed to drive without the presence of a male. A royal decree on live national television reported that it will be enacted in June 2018.
Women across Saudi Arabia have been working to resolve this issue for years. Protesters to the ban were arrested, fired, denounced by relatives, and thought to be “subordinate women” out to destroy the country.
“It was a very heavy blow on the women who drove, and it was perceived by the society as a very heavy blow,” international development worker Monera Alnahedh said on the driving ban.
When Salman announced that women would be able to drive, women and their male allies were overjoyed to win the fight that took decades.
“I’d thought maybe I’d die before I saw it,” protest organizer Nourah Alghanem said. Alghanem is now 61 and retired with five grandchildren. “What’s important is that our kingdom entered the 21st century — finally!”
Women in Saudi Arabia have felt powerless for years due to a multitude of restrictions. Some of these include not being permitted to wear makeup or clothes that “show off their beauty”, swim in a public swimming pool, compete in sports, or try on clothes while shopping. The driving ban has been lifted to help extinguish those feelings and increase equality of the sexes.
Advocates for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia see this as a mark of progress that will hopefully continue for time to come.
“That I am driving means that I know where I am going, when I’m coming back and what I’m doing,” social worker Ms. Alaboudi said. “It is not just driving a car, it is driving a life.”