Women Get Behind the Wheel in Saudi Arabia While Others Remain Behind Bars

Saudi Arabian women got behind the wheel for the first time Sunday while the women who fought to get them there remain behind bars.

The decades-old ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was officially lifted this past Sunday, allowing Saudi women to drive for the first time in the history of the kingdom.

According to senior officials from the Ministry of Interior and Traffic Directorate, more than 120,000 women applied for a driver’s license on Sunday alone.

However, six of the country’s most high-profile feminist activists who campaigned tirelessly to achieve this very day remain in prison after their arrests in the middle of last month.

“I always knew this day would come. But it came fast. Sudden. I feel like a free bird.”  — Samar al-Mogren, talkshow host

Previously, women were required to be driven by a man — a father, brother, cousin, or a hired driver — regardless of the distance.

Now, women will be able to get behind the wheel, opening up unprecedented opportunities for women to join the workforce, which is part of the Saudi government’s plan to overhaul the economy.

But not all Saudi women are reaping the benefits of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s benevolence.

At 70 years old, Aziza al-Yousef is one of Saudi Arabia’s earliest activists for women’s right to drive and is still in custody at this time following her arrest in May.

Also behind bars is Loujain al-Hathloul, 28, who has been in custody since May 15. She was previously arrested for driving illegally in 2014 and spent more than 70 days in detainment.

Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi activist and author who was jailed in 2011 for illegally driving, reminded the world that she was the first woman to receive a traffic violation.


Sharif, who now lives in Australia, planned to visit her home country, but canceled her trip out of fear for her safety following the arrests of other female activists.

Iron Triangle Press will continue to follow the stories of the women behind bars.

To read our coverage of the activists’ arrests last month, click here.


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