Saudi decree allowing women to drive set to come into force

Saudi decree allowing women to drive set to come into force

After decades of criticism from Saudi women and international rights groups, Saudi Arabia will end its prohibition on women driving

saudi-woman-driving

Photo: MEM

After decades of criticism from Saudi women and international rights groups, Saudi Arabia will end its prohibition on women driving today.

Behind the historic reversal is Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s 32-year-old crown prince. Part of a reform agenda that has shaken Riyadh’s internal politics, this move also comes with a sweeping anti-corruption campaign and a strong push to improve foreign economic relations. His much-touted Vision 2030 program seeks to moderate Saudi Islam—dismantling the Salafi clerical elite who have dominated Saudi politics since the 1950s.

Any celebration of today’s change will be mired by criticism of the state’s continued conservativism elsewhere. Although lifting the driving ban is a step towards gender equality, several activists were recently arrested, demonstrating that women’s liberties continue to face massive restrictions. Additionally, last week’s Saudi-led offensive on the critical Yemeni Port of Hodeidah has forced thousands to flee, disrupting supply chains and drawing the ire of the international community.

While it seems that the Crown Prince has more in store for levelling the gender playing field, backlash is likely forcing a slow transition. Any more radical and the ultraconservative Saudi establishment may make change much more difficult in the long run.

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