Saudi Arabia Accelerates the Issuing of Driver’s Licenses for Women

A country that banned women from driving for decades is now issuing licenses starting with foreign license holders.

byNatalie Abruzzo|

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to have a ban on women drivers, and that is changing this month. On Monday, 10 Saudi women were issued drivers licenses. This marked a milestone in government policies as there had been a ban on women driving in the country for decades. 

Saudi women who already had internationally recognized driver’s licenses from the U.S., U.K., and Canada were issued the first licenses in the country according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The women took a driving and eye exam at the General Department of Traffic in the capital city of Riyadh. 

Arab News shared a video of the first woman to be issued her license via Twitter.

The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia told The New York Times in March that women are equal to men. “Absolutely," he said. "We are all human beings and there is no difference.”

In preparation for the upcoming ban on women drivers being lifted, Vogue Arabia dedicated it’s June cover to the occasion with a photo of HRH Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah Al Saud in a vintage red 1980s Mercedes 450 SL. The issue is the publication's first-ever issue dedicated to Saudi Arabia. 

The magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Manuel Arnaut said about the cover model, "I was deeply honored when she accepted our invitation to grace our June cover. As people from the region are aware, the ruling families of Arabia are extremely private, which makes me deeply humbled for such an act of trust.”

There has been some pushback on social media regarding the magazine's use of Princess Al Saud's image for it's "A Celebration of the Trailblazing Women of Saudi Arabia" edition cover. There are tweets that suggest the cover may be tone deaf to the current situation in the country. 

Several people were arrested in May who advocated for the right to drive and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The Drive was unable to reach Vogue Arabia for comment.

The country's royal decree giving women the right to drive is part of Prince Salman's Vision 2030 plan and a push to create a more "modern Islam." The initial royal decree about the ban lift on women drivers began nearly a year ago in September.

The country expects to issue 2000 more licenses next week. It lifts its ban fully June 24.