Saudi authorities have clarified that women will be permitted to drive motorcycles, vans and trucks in addition to cars. (They also cleared up a question over whether vehicles driven by women will have special number plates. They will not.)
The decision to lift the driving ban, announced seven months ago, is one of the most prominent moves by the ambitious young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as he presses ahead with a much-trumpeted process of modernizing the kingdom.
It is a historic step, female activists say, but they point out that Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s most restrictive countries for women.
Meanwhile, a shortage of driving schools for women, the high cost of classes and Saudi authorities’ alleged intimidation of women who campaigned for the right to drive have dulled some of the initial euphoria.
As night falls , Hanan Abdulrahman weaves through traffic cones on her black Suzuki motorcycle on a deserted motor-sports circuit on the outskirts of the Saudi capital.
The 31-year-old in a yellow learner’s jacket has one word for what this feels like: “Freedom”. The scene is new for conservative Saudi Arabia, where, as of June, women will finally be allowed to drive.
But out on the track, Abdulrahman and fellow biker Leen Tinawi, a 19-year-old Jordanian born and raised in Saudi Arabia, are focused on the task at hand.
The two women strap on protective gear over their Harley Davidson T-shirts and jeans before their practice. In this private space, they are free to dress as they wish, but no one is sure what the requirement will be out on the road. The long robes known as abayas that Saudi women are required to wear in public are impractical for motorcycle riding, so they hope to be able to wear body-covering safety gear instead.
Abdulrahman learned to drive at age 14, taught off-road by her father in the hopes that one day she would be able to get a license of her own. He was particularly happy at the news that women would finally be allowed to drive.
She said she is nervous about the reactions she might encounter on the streets in June. But she doesn’t think much about the notion that she is making history.
The road to getting on the road has been a long one for Saudi women. Until 1990, it was not technically illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, but there was an unwritten code that they should not.
Source Credit: NDTV