Friday, June 22, 2018

The enthusiasm for driving is ahead for Saudi women

She sat behind an open-wheeled steering wheel and put on a helmet attached to an electronic device that helped her simulate the reality a few days before the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. She pressed the accelerator with 70 feet ...

saudi women driving

The authorities will allow Aziza and thousands of women in the conservative kingdom to sit behind the wheel of a real car from Sunday (June 24th) to end decades of embargoes that have made it the only country in the world that denies women driving.

"It will be a great day for us," Aziza, a psychology student, told AFP. "We've waited a long time," she said, trying to focus on driving through the virtual machine.

Emotional excitement prevailed at the Riyadh Park commercial center, where the Traffic Department organized an event to help women prepare for the lifting of the ban on Sunday.

Dozens of women flocked to enjoy the small race car driving over the interlocking paths, while others preferred to visit sites dedicated to giving lessons on traffic lights under the supervision of female trainers.

The trainer explained the importance of the seat belt and tied it around his body in a car in front of women's eyes. Similar events were held in other parts of the Kingdom in Dammam, Jeddah and Tabuk in a sign of Saudi Arabia's preparations for the zero hour as part of a campaign of change led by the young crown prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to introduce social and economic reforms to the rich kingdom.

Driving Schools

Since the decision to allow women to drive last year, driving schools have opened their doors to women to teach them to drive cars and motorcycles in a scene that has been banned for decades.

The resolution, which was seen as the most repressive measure for women, would lead to a major change in the daily lives of women, who would no longer need male drivers to move.

"Wherever we want to go, hospitals, hotels or restaurants, we can now do it alone," said Hatton Ben Dakheel, 21, a pharmacy student. "The days of waiting for the driver for long hours are over."

Some three million women in Saudi Arabia could get a driver's license by 2020, experts say. But allowing women to drive in a kingdom that swings between modernists and conservatives could trigger a backlash from hardliners who long defended the ban and considered driving sin. Two Saudi women with an international driver's license said they would rather wait a few months to monitor things in their country before they got the car.

The government had been awaiting the start of the decision to criminalize harassment and announced a fine of 300 thousand rials (about 80 thousand dollars) and a prison sentence of up to five years against the harasser. The authorities allowed the opening of leadership education institutes in major cities, but many women complained of the lack of numbers of trainers and the high fees required by these institutes.

The kingdom began issuing women's driving licenses in June for the first time in decades, and women with an international driver's license replaced it with a Saudi license. In an effort to prevent women, who do not have a license, from driving, authorities have announced a fine of 900 riyals (about $ 240) to be imposed on women who are arrested without a license, according to Saudi media.

Authorities announced this week that the first group of women, who will deal with accidents involving drivers, began training on her new job, without setting a date for starting their business. Despite the positive effect of the decision to allow women to drive, the optimism about reforms has eased somewhat after the arrest of prominent activists who have long called for a lifting of the leadership ban.

In May, Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of 17 prominent women activists and activists in the field of women's rights. Local media accused them of treason and undermining the stability of the kingdom.

A number of them were released and others were arrested. Among the detainees are female activists who have called for the abolition of the men's jurisdiction over women, which gives men the opportunity to control the travel, education and work of women. The authorities have confirmed that obtaining a driver's license does not require men's approval.

"I encourage my wife to lead," Nayef Abdul Rahman, a Riyadh resident, told AFP. "Women, who can raise children, are able to drive a car.