Video: Saudi Arabia Begins Issuing Driver’s Licenses to Women

Aziza al-Yousef
AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

A video purportedly showing Saudi Arabian officials issuing a driver’s license to a woman is making the rounds on social media Monday.

The video reportedly originated on the Saudi news website Al Arabiya.

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

The Associated Press reports 10 women were granted licenses.

“The general directorate of traffic started replacing international driving licences recognised in the kingdom with Saudi licences.”

The General Department of Traffic Director General Mohammed al-Bassami announced May 8 that women will be able to drive from June 24. The delay, according to Saudi authorities, was necessary to allow for women to complete classes on driving and ensure the safe introduction of thousands of new drivers to Saudi roads.

“All the requirements for women in the kingdom to start driving have been established,” Bassami told the AFP.

In September 2017, a royal decree announced the end of a decades-long ban on women driving – the only one of its kind in the world.

Women 18 years of age and older will be allowed to apply for a driver’s license, Bassami said.

Driving schools for women have been set up across five cities in the conservative kingdom, and teachers will include Saudi women who obtained their licenses abroad.

Women with foreign driving licenses will be able to apply for a local one through a separate process, which will also assess their driving skills.

“It is no secret that many women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hold driving licenses from abroad,” the statement added.

Saudi women have previously petitioned the government for the lifting of the ban, and even taken to the wheel in protest.

This development follows reports indicating Saudi Arabia arrested 17 activists for allegedly protesting the Kingdom’s restrictive driving laws.

Public prosecutors described their efforts as a “coordinated activity undermining the security and stability of the kingdom”.

“Nine suspects, including four women, remain in custody after they “confessed” to a slew of charges such as suspicious contact with “hostile” organisations and recruiting people in sensitive government positions,” reports SBS.

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.

The Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.