Saudi women get 1st driver's licenses

They include women who were arrested before for driving in Saudi Arabia in defiance of the ban and also lobbied for the lifting of restrictions requiring women to obtain the permission of a male guardian before marrying, travelling overseas or getting released from prison. They took a brief driving test and eye exam before being issued the licenses at the General Directorate of Traffic in Riyadh.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful royal described as both liberalizer and authoritarian, has been pushing a series of reforms to modernize the Arab state.

In September a year ago, Riyadh removed the driving ban on women as part of reforms to undo the damage the kingdom has suffered for decades of human rights violations both inside and outside of Saudi Arabia.

The first woman to receive hers was recorded, a video which has gone viral on social media.

However, the news comes at the same time that four iconic Saudi women's rights activists, who had campaigned for the right to drive, remain under arrest and facing possible trial.

Ten Saudi women with driving licenses issued from other countries including US, UK, Lebanon and Canada exchanged their licenses with Saudi licenses at the General Department of Traffic in multiple cities.

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However, in recent weeks a number of activists who'd protested against the ban were arrested.

Almost 50 women took part in that first driving protest some 28 years ago.

Among those detained is Loujain al-Hathloul, who was held in jail for more than 70 days back in 2014 after attempting to drive from the UAE into Saudi Arabia.

"Driving for women is not just about driving a auto; it enhances strength of character, self-confidence, and decision-making skills", she said in a statement issued by the government.

Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive, has long faced global criticism for what is seen as oppression of women.

According to the National Review, eight have been temporarily released while several others are still in custody. A Saudi government statement released on Saturday said that the activists had been arrested on charges that included "suspicious contact with foreign parties", without naming them.

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