Saudi king lets women drive

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Tuesday the Saudi Arabian government announced women can now legally drive.

There have been public demonstrations against the ban since 1990, when 47 women had their passports confiscated for getting behind the wheel. A State Department spokesperson called it a "great step in the right direction". "This is a truly historic day", she told The Australian newspaper.

Even as the Saudi feminist diaspora enjoyed the victory, it also set the next goal.

"I'm going back, I'm going to drive - legally!" said al-Sharif, who came to Australia after she was released from jail for the crime of "driving while female". The king still emphasized that the state is the guardian of Shariah values.

"The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike", the Saudi Press Agency said.

Men and women danced in the streets to drums and electronic music, in scenes that were a stunning novelty in a country.

Buti said that's not the case in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

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Previously, women in the Gulf nation could be arrested for driving.

This development can't obscure the fact that speaking against the monarchy risks intense punishment, such as the flogging suffered by blogger Raif Badawi, in prison since 2012.

Hillary Clinton is very excited that women are finally being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Right now, the country is a literal patriarchy, one that's been able to quell dissent by doling out allowance in the form of cheap gas.

Men and women also danced in the streets to drums and thumping electronic music, in scenes that were a stunning anomaly in a country known for its tight gender segregation and austere vision of Islam. The government hopes to raise that to 30 percent by 2030. But by lifting the driving ban, the regime has crossed a big threshold, both in the eyes of many Saudis and the world.

Increasing numbers of women are working in a growing number of professions, and in 2015, women were allowed to vote and to run for seats on the kingdom's local councils. Permitting women to move freely to their own jobs isn't magnanimous, it's practical and necessary.

In the latest ranking of countries on their competitiveness, Saudi Arabia is 30th. The US-raised Saudi citizen worked with various ministries in Riyadh before returning to the States in 2017.

Indeed, the past few months have seen Saudi Arabia make incremental steps toward women's rights by allowing them to participate in functions considered mundane, if not a nuisance, in many other countries. Like them, observers should realize this is just one obstacle on the long road to freedom.

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