Saudi Arabia lets women have driving licenses

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The move comes as multiple Saudi women's rights activists remain under arrest for their protests campaigning for the right to drive.

The self-styled reformer, who recently undertook a global tour aimed at reshaping his kingdom's austere image, has sought to break with long-held restrictions on women and the mixing of the genders.

Saudi Arabia is the only nation in the world that does not permit women to drive.

Eight were temporarily released, pending the completion of a procedural review, the Saudi Public Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on Sunday.

Despite the historic step, however, some women who campaigned for the right to drive remain behind bars.

The move is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's far-reaching liberalisation drive as he seeks to modernise the conservative petro-state. The first group of women today received their Saudi driving licences.

However, women's rights activists have complained of a new crackdown - with several being arrested. He said they will have permission to drive anywhere in the kingdom, including the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Women have been required to get the permission of a male guardian for nearly every activity.

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The kingdom faces steep economic challenges and has a burgeoning young population that has access to the world through the internet and sees women in neighbouring Muslim countries driving freely.

The video, which was taken on Monday in Riyadh, shows an unidentified woman smiling as an officer with the Kingdom's General Directorate of Traffic hands her a Saudi license.

Rema Jawdat, a risk analyst, also said in the statement, "Driving, to me, represents having a choice; the choice of independent movement, now we have that option and that's important".

"Driving for women is not just about driving a auto; it enhances strength of character, self-confidence, and decision-making skills", she said in a statement issued by the government. They also "sought to recruit persons working in sensitive government posts as well as providing financial support to hostile elements overseas".

"All the requirements for women in the kingdom to start driving have been established", Bassami told the AFP.

"If, as it appears, their detention is related exclusively to their work as human rights defenders and activists on women's issues, they should be released immediately", she said.

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