First Saudi woman gets her driving license, historic moment goes viral

Ten Saudi women made history on Monday when they were issued driving licences just weeks before the lifting of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia on June 24.

King Salman relaxed the Saudi prohibition on women drivers in a proclamation previous year and the ban is set to lift fully on June 24. They took a brief driving test and eye exam before being issued the licenses at the General Department of Traffic in Riyadh.

However, to boost the economy and ease worldwide criticism, Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promoted major cultural changes and allowed women to drive.

In September previous year, Riyadh removed the driving ban on women as part of reforms to undo the damage the kingdom has suffered for decades of human rights violations both inside and outside of Saudi Arabia.

The Associated Press reports 10 women were granted licenses.

The move to issue some women licences early comes as four Saudi women's rights activists who'd campaigned for the right to drive remain under arrest, facing possible trial.

In September, King Salman issued the royal decree giving women permission to drive in Saudi Arabia.

The transition began on Monday days after Saudi Arabia detained 17 people for "undermining" the kingdom's security late last month, in what campaigners have dubbed a sweeping crackdown against activists.

Almost 50 women took part in that first driving protest 28 years ago.

"The first group of women received their Saudi driving licenses".

Saudi authorities have since released less than half of those detained. "Now we have that option", said Rema Jawdat, a government official who said she'd driven while overseas. After years of protests by local women activists and pressure by global human rights groups, however, the country announced last year it would be lifting the decades-long ban.

"Driving, to me, represents having a choice; the choice of independent movement, now we have that option and that's important".

Women 18 years of age and older will be allowed to apply for a driver's license, Bassami said. State-linked media have referred to the group as "foreign embassy agents" and branded them traitors.

  • Rogelio Becker