The ban on women in Saudi Arabia driving has officially been lifted, after years of campaigning.
Some women received driving licenses earlier this month, but Saturday 23rd June at 9pm GMT (midnight local time) marked the official lifting of the decade-old ban.
Previously women in the country would have to be driven by a man, or hire a private driver to get around.
The Guardian reports that there were celebrations in areas of Riyadh and Jeddah, where some women who already had licenses were given flowers by police officers.
‘I always knew this day would come, talk show host and writer Samar Almogren told The Guardian. ‘But it came fast. Sudden. I feel free like a bird.’
Aseel Al Hamad, the Saudi representative of women in motorsport – who has never been able to drive on a track in her home country - marked the occasion by driving an F1 car ahead of the French Grand Prix.
However it’s not all good news. While people celebrate the lifting of the ban, eight woman who campaigned to get the law changed are still being detained. They could not only face long prison sentences, but trial in a counter-terrorism court too – according to the BBC.
While the mood on social media is positive, there are a few reasons to be skeptical. Not all women in the country currently have licenses yet – in fact The Guardian reports that the number of licenses given to women has not yet been made public.
Danish professor Martin Hvidt has questioned the government's motives for lifting the ban since those who fought for it are still in prison. He states in an op-ed in The Independent that the ban was lifted for economic reasons; citing among other factors that the ban means men are often late to work because they have to drive their wives first.
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