Saudi Arabia starts issuing driving licences to women

Saudi Arabia on Monday started issuing driving licences (pictured- credit: Twitter @Ahlamalthunayan) to women ahead of the lifting of the decades-old ban on women drivers from June 24, state media SPA said.

The move is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 seeking to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from the current 22 per cent.

SPA said authorities are swapping international licences for Saudi ones in various locations after women applicants undergo a “practical test”. The agency did not mention how many licences were issued on Monday.

Five Saudi universities have launched driving schools for women. The Saudi Driving School at Princess Nourah University, the first for women in the capital, was launched in partnership with the Emirates Driving Institute in Dubai.

However, reports of the detention of activists, including those who initially campaigned for women’s right to drive and opposed the kingdom’s male guardianship system, have raised questions over the reforms.

While the detention of activists has been widely condemned, reformists say reports of arrests are part of a smear campaign.

According to them, eight of the detainees had been let off until their investigation is completed.

The remaining nine activists are in police custody due to their links with “hostile” organisations.