RENAULT has stolen a march on its Formula One rivals, giving a Saudi Arabian woman a chance to mark a special day by driving one of its cars ahead of today's French Grand Prix.

The collaboration with Jaguar also kicks off World Driving Day to celebrate the freedom of women to drive all over the world. Saleswomen being hired at showrooms can be seen a result of this as Saudi remains the largest market for automobiles in the middle-east.

The government recently began allowing women to sell cars as well.

Women have to adhere to strict dress codes, and must not associate with unrelated men.


But after midnight Sunday, Saudi women finally joined women around the world in being able to get behind the wheel of a auto and simply drive. The policy has been in place since 1957 - though that will change on 24 June. "It is outrageous that women are still treated like second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia".

Thousands of women have signed up for driving lessons as new female-only programmes have sprung up. There's also a waiting list of several months for the classes on offer in major cities. The classes also cost several hundred dollars, far more than what men now pay.

Other women already own cars driven by chauffeurs and are in no rush to drive themselves. "I'm just too proud to be doing this right now", said 23-year-old Majdooleen al-Ateeq as she cruised across Riyadh for the first time in her black Lexus. These efforts include re-opening of public cinemas for the first time since the 1980s, the lifting of a ban on music concerts, and plans to allow women into sports stadiums.

Though women don't need a male relative's approval to get a driver's license or buy a auto, the moral and even financial support of a husband or father is key in this male-dominated society, where men have final say over a woman's ability to marry, travel overseas or obtain a passport. "God help us the first month". She's eager to learn how to drive so she can test-drive the Ford Explorer and Edge she's been selling to customers, but her husband is telling her to wait.

Excited over the end of the ban, Tamtam said, "I'm so happy the time has come". "Currently, I have a driver". Dr. Soha Tashkandi, chairperson of clinical pathology in Riyadh's King Fahad Medical City, also got into her vehicle just after midnight but was back out in the day.


May-June 2018: Saudi authorities arrest more than a dozen prominent women's rights activists, including many who were involved in women driving campaigns, accusing them of suspicious contacts with foreign enemies.

Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that two more women's rights campaigners had been arrested in recent days "in what appears to be an unrelenting crackdown on the women's rights movement".

In the past, it has been argued that women drivers were incompatible with Saudi culture.

"It was flawless. Everything was smooth, I felt I belong in the seat", she said afterwards. As a preparation for the repeal of the driving ban, the government there has also trained its first batch of women auto accident inspectors who would respond to accident involving female drivers.


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