Women in Saudi Arabia marked a historic day today as they were allowed to drive for the first time in the country’s history. Thousands of women took to the roads in celebratory drives, and more than 120,000 women applied for a driver’s license Sunday, according to government officials.
“Demand for obtaining driving licenses is very high,” Maj. Gen. Mansour Al Turki, official spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, told CNN.
The initiative was first announced last September. In the past Saudi women have had to travel with a male relative when riding cars or have had to hire a male driver when a male relative wasn’t available.
The Kingdom has embarked on an ambitious plan to transform its economy from an oil-based one to one based on investment and a diversification. The plan, dubbed Vision2030, calls for more women to join the workforce and start their own businesses.
The new plan is being led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a 32-year-old reformer who many consider to be the heir apparent to the Saudi throne.
Commemorative messages littered social media with Saudi women posting pictures of themselves taking their first drives under the new law.
“It feels amazing to be able to actually drive in my beautiful country with so much support from everyone around. The best part was getting roses and everyone waving when we were passing by ! So proud of my beautiful country,” wrote @maram_makeup in an Instagram post.
“#finally this one is for you #dad 4 those who couldn’t witness this day,” wrote @baheirah.
The move was also hailed by international human rights organizations. “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 groundbreaking work in subsequent campaigns since 2011,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East campaigns director.
“While we welcome the fact that women can finally get behind the wheel, we should not forget that many people are still behind bars for their work in fighting for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia,” she added.
Photo by Photocapy via Wikimedia Commons