Thu | Dec 14, 2017

Saudi envoy says women driving is a 'huge step'

Published:Wednesday | September 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this Saturday, March 29, 2014 file photo, a woman drives a car in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP):

Prince Khaled bin Salman, the new Saudi ambassador to Washington, says letting women drive is a "huge step forward" for his country.

He tells reporters in Washington that it was the right time for Saudi Arabia to do the right thing. The ambassador says his government views women driving as a social issue, not a religious or cultural issue.

Salman says women won't need permission legally from a male guardian to get a driver's licence and won't need a guardian in the vehicle with them to drive. He says Saudi Arabia will recognise driver's licenses issued to women in other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

The ambassador says Saudi Arabia isn't taking the step at the request of the US and that the issue didn't come up during President Donald Trump's recent visit to the kingdom.

But the ambassador isn't commenting on whether Saudi Arabia will take other steps to expand rights for women, such as further relaxing guardian requirements.

One of Saudi Arabia's most vocal women's rights activists says the decision to allow women to drive is a "great first step."

Aziza Youssef told The Associated Press by phone from Riyadh that she was "really excited" about yesterday's announcement, calling it a "good step forward for women's rights".

Youssef, a professor at King Saud University, says women will continue to push for an end to male guardianship laws that remain in place, which give male relatives the final say on issues like the right of women to travel abroad, obtain a passport and marry.

Women's rights activists since the 1990s have been pushing for the right to drive, saying it represents their larger struggle for equal rights under the law.