First Saudi women receive driving licenses amid crackdown

Ten Saudi women made history on Monday when they were issued driving licences just weeks before the lifting of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia on June 24. The issuance of the licences means that for the first time in more than 50 years, women will be able to drive legally in Saudi Arabia. Expectations are that next week an additional 2,000 women will join the ranks of licenced drivers in the Kingdom.

The 10 women - all of whom exchanged foreign driving licences for Saudi licences at the General Department of Traffic in the Saudi capital of Riyadh and other cities - were fully aware of the significance of their experience and generally overjoyed at being part of such an historic moment.

"I have 12 years of driving experience in Lebanon, Switzerland, and the United States. It's a dream come true that I am about to drive in the Kingdom. The moment I got the news about driving was unbelievable for me," said Rema Jawdat, a risk analyst, at the Ministry of Economy and Planning.

"Driving, to me, represents having a choice; the choice of independent movement, now we have that option and that's important."

The historic decision in September 2017 by King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive starting June 24 has been praised around the world. The decision is in line with the Vision 2030 blueprint for the future, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Women's empowerment is an important element in Vision 2030 and the future of Saudi Arabia.

In preparation for the far-reaching effects of the new policy, a number of recent automotive exhibitions in Riyadh and the port city of Jeddah have attracted crowds of women seeking to learn about automobile culture, car dealers and insurance companies.

Attendees were also informed of special offers for new female drivers, educated on car accessories and given the chance to take a spin in a driving simulator.

General Department of Traffic's Director, Major General Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Bassami, announced last month that all preparations for women in Saudi Arabia to start driving have been completed.

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