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Saudi officers hand out roses to women drivers in historic moment

Saudi officers hand out roses to women drivers in historic moment

Some women say they never want to drive.

The conservative kingdom was the only country left in the world where women were prohibited from driving, a restriction that resulted in some families having to hire chauffeurs for female relatives. "It's so natural for her to drive and get her insurance and everything, whereas it was extremely hard for us", Bakr said on Sunday when her niece drove to visit her.

Minutes after midnight, women in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh and many other cities steered their cars through streets in a move that is being hailed as a historic moment. "I am glad to see such progress, empowering women to be more involved in this development".

"I believe today is not just celebrating the new era of women starting to drive, it's also the birth of women in motorsport in Saudi Arabia", she said.

Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, which is the authorised distributor for Toyota cars in Saudi Arabia, said it had deployed nearly 100 female front-line staff in their showrooms to advise women who are looking for a new motor.

Loujain al-Hathloul is one of six women jailed since mid-May for their activism - a month before the Saudi Government promised to lift the ban on women driving.

One cleric claimed women were not smart enough to drive, while another warned that those who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems.

A handful of driving schools for women were subsequently permitted to open in cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah.

Saudia Arabia's transformation, including allowing women greater freedoms and equality, may be essential to its economy.




The move has been linked to a far-reaching liberalisation campaign being driven by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the King's 32-year-old son. Many haven't had a chance to take the gender-segregated driving courses that were first offered to women only a few months ago.

Authorities have said that nine of 17 arrested people remain in prison, accused of undermining the kingdom's security and aiding enemies of the state.

But there also poignant social media messages from prominent women's rights campaigners who called for fellow activists who were recently detained to be released.

State-backed newspapers have published front-page pictures of some of the activists with the word "traitor" stamped across them in red.

Across the street, her neighbour had just arrived home with two bags of groceries.

Amnesty International said on Friday that al-Hathloul, as well as at least seven other activists, are now behind bars facing lengthy prison sentences.

"It feels handsome. It was a dream for us so when it happens in reality, I am between belief and disbelief- between a feeling of joy and astonishment", said Mabkhoutah al-Mari as she pulled up to order a drive-thru coffee on her drive to work.

Even some of the prince's ardent supporters have labelled the crackdown a "mistake".

After more than 60 years spent stuck in the passenger seat, the Gulf kingdom's 15.1 million women can finally take control of the steering wheel when the ban on female drivers is lifted.

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