Careem's Saudi expansion could be impacted by lifting of driving ban

Careem's Saudi expansion could be impacted by lifting of driving ban

Careem's Saudi expansion could be impacted by lifting of driving ban

Today Saudi Arabia has announced that women will be allowed to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom next summer, fulfilling a key demand of women's rights activists who faced detention for defying the ban.

Women who drove in public risked being arrested and fined.

The Gulf kingdom is the only country in the world that bans women from driving, the BBC reports.

The discrimination against women and their ability to drive has caused significant damage to the kingdom's reputation around the world, and lifting the controversial ban will go some way to offsetting some of the criticism.

A hole was poked in that restriction last week, with women allowed to enter a sports stadium in Riyadh for Saudi National Day - in a family section, away from single men.

"It is a testament to the bravery of women activists who have been campaigning for years that the government of Saudi Arabia has finally relented and made a decision to permit women to drive", said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Research and Advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

US President Donald Trump commended the order in a White House press office statement that called the change "a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia".

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Detailed recommendations will follow within 30 days, and the government has until June 24, 2018, to lift the ban. One Saudi Arabian professor believes this to be a PR stunt to gain popularity for the king, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, both internationally and among his own people.

One Saudi woman tweeted a picture of three women in a convertible going shopping, with the message: "Us soon". "In Saudi Arabia, we have had the privilege to enable employment for thousands of women by providing them a reliable means to get to work". "You cannot empower women to become anything in your country if she still needs a man's permission", said al-Sharif, 38, a divorced mother with a job, her own vehicle and a United Arab Emirates driving licence.

Tuesday's announcement comes at a crucial time for Saudi Arabia.

Women are generally not allowed to socialise with males outside their immediate families and can be thrown in prison for such an offence.

"Women's rights activists will still continue to observe how this law is implemented and monitored and will continue campaigning to abolish the male guardianship imposed on them", she said.

While the victory for women who have endured arrests, threats and exile in campaiging to be allowed behind the wheel should not be downplayed, the long-awaited good news that they can now drive has inevitably come with a dose of sketpicism.

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