Saudi women warned against driving before ban is lifted

October 12, 2017

Nearly a decade and a half ago, Queen Elizabeth II took the late Saudi King Abdullah for a spin in her royal Land Rover. Just this week, Riyadh police issued a warning to all women in Saudi Arabia that they cannot yet legally drive, despite royal decree just last month that the long-standing ban on female drivers will be lifted next year.

The new warning comes after video surfaced showing a woman driving herself away from a Riyadh hotel. The woman was reportedly not arrested, but cited for violating the ban; similarly, the male owner of the car was also cited, for “violating traffic rules.”

In an interview with Agence France-Presse a police spokesman said, “We call on all Saudi citizens to respect the law and wait until the ban on women driving formally ends.”

As a related matter, the Kingdom’s General Department of Traffic took to Saudi airwaves to spread a warning that “unauthorized offices” were training women to drive. Without specifying any specific threat or problem with the instruction, the department’s spokesman said that “women should not be in a hurry to learn how to drive through unauthorized offices,” before adding that, “authorized offices will be announced soon.”

While most of the world cheered the move as a long-overdue step toward reducing Saudi Arabia’s culturally and state-enforced gender gap, it has met with a mixed reception within the Arabian Peninsula. Some have gone so far as to threaten to kill any women seen driving a vehicle—even after it becomes legal to do so.

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