Saudi Oil Minister Says Women Drivers Will Boost Gasoline Demand


For almost three decades, outspoken Saudi women and men had called for women to have the right to drive as a symbol of other changes they said were needed in the deeply conservative kingdom.

But after midnight Sunday, Saudi women finally joined women around the world in being able to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and simply drive.

Hessah al-Ajaji drivers her auto down the capital's busy Tahlia Street after midnight for the first time in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, June 24, 2018. "No, a bird. I feel free like a bird".

The 25-year-old said that it took her 30 minutes to write the lyrics to the song and tune because she felt inspired.

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.

The document mentions Saudi women as "great asset to the nation" and aims to increase there participation in the workforce to 30 per cent by 2030.

The lifting of the ban, ordered last September by King Salman, is part of sweeping reforms pushed by his powerful young son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "We have seen a decent amount of people saying they would keep a driver on to take children to school", she said.

"It is sad that these women who have been fighting for the right to drive won't be there to witness this historic moment".

The move places Saudi women at the heart of a major transformation being spearheaded by the country's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi General Traffic Directorate began to issue domestic driving licences to women who have global ones on June 4.

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Other women used similar language to describe their maiden driving experiences.

Even with the end of the driving ban, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most restrictive countries for women, who need permission from legally mandated male guardians for important decisions such as foreign travel and marriage.

Adding 1 percentage point to the Saudi participation rate every year might add about 70,000 more women a year to the labour market, according to Daoud.

The controversial ban formally ended at midnight on Saturday, with women hitting the roads to celebrate the historic event.

The Saudi authorities previously said they expected about 2,000 women to have received licences by the time the ban was lifted.

"The lifting of the ban is testament to the bravery and determination of the women's rights activists who have been campaigning on the issue since the 1990s, and the activists following up their ground-breaking work in subsequent campaigns since 2011", said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East Campaigns Director. I am going to leave it for an emergency.

Others already own cars driven by chauffeurs and are in no rush to drive themselves. The first licenses were issued earlier month and about 2,000 female drivers now have official permits to get behind the wheel, the BBC reports.

She said: "I don't think there was an immediate connection between the two".

While some still quietly oppose the change, there are men openly embracing it.

Riyadh resident Amr al-Ardi said the women in his family would wait to see how the system works before they start driving. But my father supported me, and has always supported me in all of my life decisions.