Saudi Arabia has issued its first driver’s licenses to 10 women ahead of June 24, when the Kingdom’s due to end the world’s only ban on women drivers.
Officials expect another 2,000 women to seek licenses in the coming week, according to a news release from the country’s Ministry of Media.
Activists have long called for the lifting of the ban, and there was some celebration when the Kingdom said last September that the ban would end. However, in recent weeks a number of activists who’d protested against the ban were arrested.
On Saturday, the Saudi government “temporarily” released eight activists who were arrested in May for protesting against the ban. Five women and three men were released, but another nine activists remained in custody, according to a statement from Saudi Arabia Public Prosecution.
When Saudi women first defied the driving ban
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follows a strict form of Wahhabi Islam that places many restrictions on women and bans the mixing of sexes at public events. Women have been required to get the permission of a male guardian for almost every activity.
But the kingdom has begun easing some of those constraints, lifting some restrictions on women’s education and improving access to public spaces like sports stadiums and movie theaters.
In September, King Salman issued the royal decree giving women permission to drive in Saudi Arabia.