Saudi Women Rejoice at end of Driving Ban
Saudi Puts Women in the Driving Seat But Not Everyone’s Happy
The morning after Saudi Arabia joined the rest of the world in opening its roads to female drivers, the top trending hashtag among the kingdom’s Twitter users wasn’t supportive.
“The people reject women driving” was shared widely in this highly-wired society where social media offers people a rare outlet for criticism.
Tuesday’s royal decree overturning a ban that had been widely condemned by Saudi activists and global human rights organizations was the boldest move yet in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s effort to open up Saudi society, a counterpart to an ambitious program to modernize the economy and reduce its reliance on oil. Yet Saudi Arabia remains a deeply conservative Islamic country and there is a risk of a backlash.
The Council of Senior Scholars commended the royal order, but expressed reservations about the need to abide by Islamic requirements. Some young men interviewed in Riyadh described the decision entitling women to driving licenses from June as a mistake. Ministerial committees have been set up to examine implementation, and they’ll report within 30 days, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
It’s not “going to be a simple journey to allow women to drive,” said Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa director at Eurasia Group. As well as opposition from the clerical establishment, some in the ruling family may accuse the prince of impatience. “There are going to be elements that resist this. There’s no doubt about that,” Kamel said “He cannot silence all the dissent.”