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Saudi Arabia begins issuing driving licenses to women

Saudi Arabia begins issuing driving licenses to women

Ten Saudi women were issued driver's licenses by the government of Saudi Arabia on Monday, according to a news release from the country's Ministry of Media.

"The first group of women today received their Saudi driving licences", the Saudi Press Agency said in a statement.

The video, which was taken on Monday in Riyadh, shows an unidentified woman smiling as an officer with the Kingdom's General Directorate of Traffic hands her a Saudi license.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities' endless harassment of women's rights activists is entirely unjustifiable, and the world must not remain silent on the repression of human rights defenders in the country", Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns, said last week.

Driving schools are also being set up across the kingdom with some female instructors who learned to drive in other countries.

Rights groups earlier reported arrests of at least 11 people last month, mostly identified as women campaigners for the right to drive and to end the conservative Islamic country's male guardianship system. Saudi Arabia's prosecutor said Sunday that 17 people had been detained in recent weeks on suspicion of trying to undermine security and stability, a case activists said targeted prominent women's rights campaigners.




Authorities said eight of the detainees had been "temporarily released" until their investigation is completed.

They have not only risked arrest by pushing for years for the right to drive, but have also called for an end to guardianship laws that give male relatives the final say over a woman marrying or traveling overseas.

They now face a range of charges, including communicating with people and organizations hostile to the kingdom and providing financial and moral support to hostile elements overseas. They were longtime advocates of women's rights who took part in the first protest in 1990 against the kingdom's ban on women driving.

This measure is part of the traffic department's preparations to implement a royal decree allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Women pose for a photo after attending a driving training at a university in Jeddah. It may also be a message to activists not to push demands out of sync with the government's own agenda, they said.

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