21st century

Saudi Arabia issues driver’s licenses to 10 women

Esraa Albuti, an executive director at Ernst & Young, was among the 10 Saudi women to obtain a driver's license on Monday. (Twitter / Saudi Arabia Ministry of Information)

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia took a step toward joining the rest of the world in the 21st century on Monday when it issued driver’s licenses to 10 women. Saudi Arabia is the only nation on earth that prohibits women from operating an automobile, but the notorious driving ban is set to be lifted on June 24. The 10 women who received licenses on Monday each already had been issued driver’s licenses in other countries. They were required to pass a vision exam and a driving test before the licenses were issued.

On Twitter, video surfaced of the very first driver’s license being issued to a woman in the country’s history. Below, watch the video of that historic moment, which took place at the General Department of Traffic in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

The surprise move to hand out some early driver’s licenses comes as several women’s rights activists, including women who have long protested the driving ban, remain locked up. Four are facing a possible trial on charges of undermining security and stability. Rights activists say the women are being targeted. Seventeen total have been arrested, The Associated Press reported. The kingdom has also faced withering criticism in its handling of the public relations surrounding the monumental cultural shift. Just last week, Vogue Arabia came under fire for featuring a princes behind the wheel of a red convertible on the cover of its latest issue.

Among the 10 who received the first batch of driver’s licenses was Esraa Albuti, an executive director at Ernst & Young who was seen holding her driver’s license in a photo released by the Saudi Ministry of Information, and Tahani Aldosemani, who, according to her LinkedIn page is, a vice dean at Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz University in Alkharj. Aldosemani posted a photo of her newly-minted driver’s license on Twitter, saying, according to a translation by Bing, “Today, a few hours ago, I received my driver’s license.” She also thanked 31-year-old Crown Prince  Mohammed bin Salman for “this support and empowerment.”

Women in Saudi Arabia have been preparing for the driving ban to be lifted in recent months by obtaining auto insurance and taking driving lessons. Famed former Italian racecar driver Francesca Pardini spent time there this year training Saudi women on the intricacies of operating an automobile. And some women are even training to be Uber drivers, according to the AP.

Watch the video below for more on the story.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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