Saudi King Salman on Tuesday (September 26) ordered that women be allowed to drive cars, ending a conservative tradition seen by rights activists as an emblem of the Islamic kingdom’s repression of women.
Speaking at the United Nations, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN, said that it was a historic day for Saudi society.
The kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, has been widely criticized for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving, despite gradual improvement on some women’s issues in recent years and ambitious government targets to increase their public role, especially in the workforce. Despite trying to cultivate a more modern image in recent years, the driving ban had been a long-standing stain on Saudi Arabia’s international image.
For more than 25 years, women activists have campaigned to be allowed to drive, defiantly taking to the road, petitioning the king and posting videos of themselves behind the wheel on social media. The protests brought them arrest and harassment.