Saudi women driving

Saudi women are in the driver’s seat for the first time in their country after the world’s last remaining ban on Saudi women driving was finally lifted.

Saudi Samar Al-Moqren drives her car through the streets of the Saudi capital Riyadh for the first time just after midnight, PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINEFAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

It is a historic moment for women who have had to rely on their husbands, fathers, brothers, and drivers to run basic errands, get to work, visit friends or even drop children off at school.

Saudi women driving

The ban had relegated women to the backseat, restricting when and how they move around.

Saudi women celebrate after they drove their cars in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

For nearly three decades, outspoken Saudi women and the men who supported them have called for women to have the right to drive.

They faced arrest for defying the ban as women in other Muslim countries drove freely.

In 1990, during the first driving campaign by activists, women who got behind the wheels of their cars in the capital, Riyadh, lost their jobs, faced severe stigmatization

and were barred from travel abroad for a year.

Ultraconservatives in Saudi Arabia had long warned that allowing women to drive would lead to sin and expose women to harassment.

Ahead of allowing women to drive, the kingdom passed a law against sexual harassment with up to five years in prison for the most severe cases.

Criticism against women driving has largely been muted since King Salman announced last year that they would be allowed to drive.

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