The Saudi king's advisory council recommends government lift its ban on female drivers

The Saudi king's advisory council recommends government lift its ban on female drivers

According to a source

Editor: Buro 24/7

Site: Associated Press

According a new report published by the Associated Press, the Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz advisors have recommended the kingdom’s government lift the country's long-standing ban on female drivers

In a landmark step for campaigners in the Gulf state who have fought tirelessly for years to have the ban lifted, the Shoura Council has reportedly recommended that the ban of female drivers be waived "behind closed doors" last month.

According to a source, the recommendation is that women over 30-years-old be granted access to be able to drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), so long as they have the permission of a male guardian. This would be a huge step forward for the conservative country. 

It also reported that the recommendation stipulates that female drivers should not wear makeup when driving and dress in conservative clothing. There are also reportedly timing blocks on when the woman would be able to drive – 7am-8pm on Saturday through Wednesday and between noon and 8pm on Thursday and Friday. 

The report also adds that a 'female traffic department' is advised. The news comes shortly after the one-year anniversary that saw hordes of women in KSA take to the wheel in October 26 2013. At least 2,500 women filmed themselves driving and signed an online petition against the female driving ban. The protest led to some arrests and a celebratory anniversary event was scheduled for October 26 2014, but later cancelled after female campaigners agreed to adhere to a government warning against driving.

The Interior Ministry issued a warning to women not to break the kingdom's men-only road rules and described any such attempt by women to drive in public as "an opportunity for predators to undermine social cohesion."

Sami El Moslimany, who was one of the Saudi women arrest during the 2013 October 26 campaign told Arab News: "The ministry's warning will be heeded. What happened last year was not orchestrated," 

"Nothing has been planned to violate the ministry's warning. October 26 is a symbolic day. The campaign is only to create awareness on the issue."

The Saudi Arabia human rights organisation, The National Society of Human Rights (NSHR) – which is closely associated with and funded by the Saudi goverment – has advised a “gradual approach” to the issue of allowing women to drive.

Since the 1990s regular demonstrations against Saudi's strict male-only driving rules have taken place.  Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has gradually improved the position of women in society since his ascension to the KSA throne in 2005. His policies have more access to education and careers for women, yet conservative Islamists, including the country’s highest religious authorities, have arguably made it difficult for some areas of progess – including the driving ban on women.

The 150-member Shura Council – who have reportedly made the recommendation for allowing women to drive – is appointed by the king, drawing on various sectors of society to act as the closest thing to a parliament in the kingdom, though it has no legislative powers. King Abdullah appointed women to it for the first time, and now there are 30 female members.