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Saudi Arabia, until now the only country that did not permit female motorists, allowed women to get behind the wheel for the first time in decades on Sunday.

"I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and the spirit to dream". Saudi Arabia adheres to an austere version of Islam and has curbs on women, barring them from driving and requiring them to have the permission of a male guardian to marry or travel overseas.

Saudi Arabian officials announced a year ago they would be overturning the nation's longstanding ban on women drivers - part of a series of reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at modernizing the Arab state.

May-June 2018: Saudi authorities arrest more than a dozen prominent women's rights activists, including many who were involved in women driving campaigns, accusing them of suspicious contacts with foreign enemies. "And we have more than 700 already graduated and got their license", said Amel Attia from Emirates Driving Institute, who set up SDS. "Even if you dream the impossible you can still achieve it", she said. The decision to allow women to drive has been seen as a landmark step that will put them nearly at par with men. These efforts include re-opening of public cinemas for the first time since the 1980s, the lifting of a ban on music concerts, and plans to allow women into sports stadiums.

A note placed by an unknown person on female driver Azza Al Shmasani's vehicle, is pictured in Saudi Arabia June 22, 2011.

"I support it because some families really need to have a female driving", said Abdelaziz, 26.

Still, women in the kingdom are denied many basic rights.


The 27-year-old mother of two is a driving instructor for women and already had a driver's license from the USA, where she'd spent time in Tennessee studying.

"When the clock struck 12am on Sunday, June 24, I drove in my country for the first time", she said.

"In the beginning years, like to two and three, I'm a little scared about the people".

While there has been some loosening of restrictions in recent months, rights groups say much more remains to be done. Almaeena told Arab News that the event was changing her life by "facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free". Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal posted a video to Twitter, which said, "Finally, First ride with my daughter @Reem_Alwaleed while she's driving me and my grand daughters in Riyadh". "Thanks to King Salman for this achievement".

26 September 2017: King Salman orders preparations to be made for women to eventually be allowed to drive.

Activists have already begun campaigning to end the guardianship system, which has been chipped away at slowly over the years.

"Worst of all will be if these small-scale reforms, and the silencing of feminists, slow the momentum for pushing the Saudi regime into making more meaningful change", she wrote in a US newspaper.


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