Saudi women take victory lap as driving ban ends

RIYADH (Reuters) – Women in Saudi Arabia hit the roads on Sunday, ushering in the end of the world’s last ban on female drivers, long seen as an emblem of women’s repression in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

“It’s a beautiful day,” businesswoman Samah al-Qusaibi said as she cruised around the eastern city of Khobar just after midnight, with police looking on. “Today we are here,” she said from the driver’s seat. “Yesterday we sat there,” she added, pointing to the back.

The ban’s end, ordered last September by King Salman, is part of sweeping reforms pushed by his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a bid to transform the economy of the world’s top oil exporter and open up its cloistered society.

“It is our right and finally we took it. It is only a matter of time for the society to accept it, generally,” said Samira al-Ghamdi, a 47-year-old psychologist from Jeddah, as she drove herself to work.

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