‘Cinderella Will Be Free’: Saudi Women Take the Wheel Minutes After Driving Ban Is Lifted

On Jun. 24, the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia was lifted and to mark the historic moment, women immediately got behind the wheel. 

In September, Saudi Arabia announced that it would lift the ban that prohibited women from driving in an effort to help them contribute to the economy.

On Sunday, the promise came to fruition and women were able to take to the roads on their own. 

Ahead of the ban being lifted, Rola wrote on Twitter that many people will use the moment to criticize the Saudi government, the patriarchy, and the length of time it took for the change to come. 

“To [you] this might just be headlines or used as a feminist argument, to us this is a conquest this is history in the making,” she tweeted. 

 

Shortly before Sunday morning, Maha Akeel tweeted, “at the stroke of midnight […] Cinderella will be free to ride her own carriage […] anytime […] anywhere.”  

The hashtag “Saudi Women Can Drive” began trending on Twitter and many people used the moment to post videos of themselves and others behind the wheel. 

Manal al-Dabbagh told Al Arabiya that she lived outside of Saudi Arabia for six years, where she drove freely. 

“Finally, as two building blocks in our society, women will be side-by-side with men,” she said of the moment she was able to drive in Saudi. 

A female resident of Riyadh told the Saudi Gazette she had a “special message” for the rest of the globe.

“I’d like to give a special message to the whole world: the Saudi woman is able to drive not just the car but in all situations and times,” she said.

She explained that Saudi women are “educated, cultured, and brought up on customs and traditions, which can be applied to all streets, not just in the Kingdom.” 

She added, “We will soon prove to the whole world that the Saudi roads and traffic will be one of the safest.”  

Another woman got behind the wheel with a reporter from The National in her passenger seat and her husband and sons in the back seat. 

“I’m just, over the moon,” she said and her husband added that he was “really relaxed” in the back. 

“I don’t need to think before I go out,” she said of the changes being able to drive will have on her life. “Let’s do this!” she cheered at the stroke of midnight. 

Salma Rashed al-Sneid also spoke to the Saudi Gazette from behind the wheel and called this the “starting point.” 

Prince Al Waleed bin Talal even capitalized on the moment and took the passenger seat while his daughter Reem Al Waleed drove himself and his granddaughters around. 

“Your mom is driving, a good idea?” he asked before leading the car in a round of applause for his daughter. 

Aziz Alangari tweeted that while at a stoplight he saw everyone looking at the car next to them.

“I had no idea this would be so much fun,” he wrote. 

Other women posted photos of themselves behind the wheel. 

While women being granted the ability to drive in Saudi Arabia is historic and a great step forward, various people pointed out that there is still a long way to go before Saudi women are truly free. 

Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum shared a photo of a woman showing off her license with her kids in the back seat and agreed it’s “great to see women driving in Saudi.” 

However, she added that it’s import to not “forget” that many of the people who campaigned for this change are still incarcerated. 

Arabic Al Aan TV roving reporter Jenan Moussa shared a few of the photos that popped up on her timeline and congratulated her “Saudi sisters.” 

“Women in the region still have a long way to go but today is a happy day,” she tweeted. 

Although women are able to drive, according to the New York Times, under Saudi Arabia’s guardianship laws they are required to have her male guardian’s permission to: 

  • Enroll in school
  • Give consent for her to leave the country 
  • Approve her passport 
  • Get married 

In Saudi Arabia, women’s witness statements during a trial are also only half the weight of a man’s and are only entitled to half the inheritance of male family members. 

Women were also granted permission to attend sporting events at a public stadium for the first time in September. 

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