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Women To Drive In Saudi Arabia Will Now Be Allowed To Dive After Saudi King Issues Decree

Women To Drive In Saudi Arabia Will Now Be Allowed To Dive After Saudi King Issues Decree
Ending a conservative tradition seen by rights activists as an emblem of the Islamic kingdom's repression of women, the Saudi King Salman ordered that women be allowed to drive cars.
Despite gradual improvement on some women's issues in recent years and ambitious government targets to increase their public role, especially in the workforce, the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, has been widely criticised for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving.
The driving ban had been a longstanding stain on Saudi Arabia's international image,
despite trying to cultivate a more modern image in recent years.
According to state news agency SPA, the royal decree ordered the formation of a ministerial body to give advice within 30 days and then implement the order by June 24, 2018.
Referring to Islamic law, it stipulated that the move must "apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards". The permissibility was approved by a majority of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, Saudi Arabia's top clerical body, it said without giving any further details.
A jubilant Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Khaled bin Salman, said it was "an historic and big day in our kingdom", an hour after the official announcement in Saudi Arabia.

"I think our leadership understands that our society is ready. I think it's the right decision at the right time," the ambassador said.

There were very positive reactions quickly from inside the kingdom and around the world.

The move was described as "a great step in the right direction" by the U.S. State Department. Pledged of U.S. support for a plan the Kingdom announced last year for economic and social reforms was said in a statement by the White House while President Donald Trump commended the decision.
"This is a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia," the White House statement said. "We will continue to support Saudi Arabia in its to efforts to strengthen Saudi society and the economy through reforms like this and the implementation of Saudi Vision 2030."
Defiantly taking to the road, petitioning the king and posting videos of themselves behind the wheel on social media, women activists have campaigned to be allowed to drive for more than 25 years. There were arrests and harassments of the protesters.
In order to express her relief following the king's announcement, Activist Manal al-Sherif, who was arrested in 2011 after a driving protest, took to Twitter. "Today, the last country on earth to allow women to drive... we did it", she wrote.

The decision would strengthen women's employment in the private sector, said
Latifa al-Shaalan, a member of the Shura Council, an advisory body.
"This is an historic day and I cannot find the words to express my feelings and the feelings of thousands of Saudi women," she said on Arabiya TV.
approval to basic decisions they make in fields including education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment have to be sought from a male guardian by women legally in Saudi Arabia which is also a top Arab ally of the United States.
For most legal actions consent of a male guardian is required by women in the kingdom who are also bound by law to wear long robes and a headscarf.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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