First batch of Saudi women receive driving licenses

A Saudi woman puts on her seat belt as she begins a driving lesson in Riyadh

A Saudi woman puts on her seat belt as she begins a driving lesson in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia on Monday began issuing its first driving licences to women in decades, authorities said, just weeks before the historic lifting of the conservative kingdom's ban on female motorists.

Saudi Arabia has had laws barring women from driving for decades, but will officially lift it on June 24 - a move that has been widely celebrated.

Instagram down as problems on app are reported throughout the night'The general directorate of traffic started replacing global driving licences recognised in the kingdom with Saudi licences'.

"The exchange process is taking place on various spots around the kingdom to lay the ground for women sitting behind the wheels on the roads - a turning point set to be actualized on June 24", a statement from the Saudi Press Agency reported, according to Al Jazeera.

The first 10 women took a brief driving test before receiving a license, as they'd already held licenses to drive in other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Lebanon.

People voiced their joy on social media as many posted photos of the newly-issued women's driving licenses.

The 10 women received their licenses after completing a brief driving test.

On May 19, Saudi authorities had detained seven women's rights advocates who campaigned for the right to drive and an end the male guardianship system.

Rights groups have identified numerous detainees as women campaigners for the right to drive and to end the conservative country's male guardianship system.

The prosecutor's statement said eight have been temporarily released, while five men and four women remain under arrest.

"Thousands of congratulations to the daughters of the homeland, being issued the first licence in Saudi Arabia", the tweet read.

They now face a range of charges, including communicating with people and organizations hostile to the kingdom and providing financial and moral support to hostile elements overseas. They also warned women that they would be subjected to sexual harassment if they drove. Women's empowerment is an important element in Vision 2030 and the future of Saudi Arabia. "If, as it appears, their detention is related exclusively to their work as human rights defenders and activists on women's issues, they should be released immediately", she said.

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