Saudi Oil Minister Says Women Drivers Will Boost Gasoline Demand

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Maha Mohammed poses for a photograph on a motorbike as she learns how to ride, at the Bikers Skills institute in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 23, 2018.

They ensured restaurants and stores closed their doors for daily prayers and waved sticks at women who had their hair or face uncovered, shouting through microphones attached to the tops of their cars as they patrolled the streets.

Many women were seen driving to their offices on Sunday morning, while a few were driving on the outskirts of Riyadh to acclimatize themselves with the environment before they hit the roads.

Women enthusiastically and wholeheartedly cheered on their fellow female drivers, beginning after midnight, packing Jeddah's Corniche in the middle of the night and then into the day.

Ahead of the ban being lifted, they've put Saudi saleswomen on showroom floors and targeted potential new drivers with advertising and social media marketing.

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Today marks the first day that women are allowed to legally drive in Saudi Arabia.

Women in Saudi Arabia can take a victory lap on Sunday. This move was announced a year ago in September, as part of the Kingdom's effort to remove the country's reputation of repressing women's rights. "I like to be a princess with someone opening the vehicle door for me and driving me anywhere". Until today many Saudi women had been forced to employ male drivers, which eats into their income while prohibiting others from owning cars.

But it has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including against some of the very activists who previously campaigned against the ban. Some have been temporarily released.

The move has been linked to a far-reaching liberalisation campaign being driven by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the King's 32-year-old son.

Three of the women still detained- Aziza al-Yousef, Loujain al-Hathloul and Eman al-Nafjan- are seen as icons of a larger democratic and civil rights push in the kingdom.

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Many women fear they will be easy prey as drivers in a nation where male "guardians" - their fathers, husbands or other relatives - can exercise arbitrary authority to make decisions on their behalf. Prosecutors accuse them of working with foreign entities and attempting to harm the interests of the kingdom.

As she drove through the streets of Riyadh, Ammal Farahat, a mother of two, said every effort or risk taken over the years has made a difference and led to Sunday's change.

"It feels weird; I am so happy. Time for women to drive". Women who were new to driving could try out driving simulators and practice parking.

A note placed by an unknown person on female driver Azza Al Shmasani's auto, is pictured in Saudi Arabia June 22, 2011. Another 2,000 more will join the first ten, all of which passed driving courses now offered at all-female university campuses. The classes also cost several hundred dollars, far more than what men now pay.

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