First Saudi driving licenses issued to women with foreign licenses

First Saudi driving licenses issued to women with foreign licenses

The move comes a few days after, Amnesty International called on the "international community and allies of Saudi Arabia" to exert pressure on Riyadh to immediately and unconditionally release women's rights defenders now detained in the Arab kingdom.

In preparation for the far-reaching effects of the new policy, a number of recent automotive exhibitions in Riyadh and the port city of Jeddah have attracted crowds of women seeking to learn about automobile culture, vehicle dealers and insurance companies.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman gave the order, which reverses a decades-old prohibition in the conservative kingdom. "The moment I got the news about driving was unbelievable for me", said Rema Jawdat, a risk analyst, at the Ministry of Economy and Planning.

"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. Saudi women had also been banned from voting until 2015, when they were allowed to vote in local elections.

The self-styled reformer has also ended a decades-long ban on cinemas, allowed mixed-gender concerts and clipped the powers of the long-feared religious police.

SPA said authorities started swapping global licences for Saudi ones in multiple locations across the kingdom, with women applicants made to undergo a "practical test".

Authorities said eight of the detainees had been "temporarily released" until their investigation is completed.

Others were detained over the years during various efforts by women's rights activists to drive.

"Nine suspects, including four women, remain in custody after they "confessed" to a slew of charges such as suspicious contact with "hostile" organisations and recruiting people in sensitive government positions", reports SBS. State-linked media have referred to the group as "foreign embassy agents" and branded them traitors.

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