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Saudi women mark National Day behind the steering wheel

MAKKAH/RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s celebration of its 88th National Day comes at a time when the Kingdom is achieving remarkable progress economically and socially, most notably lifting the ban on women driving.
This is the first National Day in which Saudi women can drive their cars. Writer Heba Qazi said it is a beautiful feeling, and Saudi women can now participate in celebrations and exercise their legitimate right nationwide.
The 88th National Day is a great opportunity to remember past glories and recognize the great sacrifices of those who have held high the banner of Saudi women’s rights, she added.
Under King Salman and his crown prince, women have been able to obtain their rights and become ambassadors to all the countries of the world, she said.
The king and crown prince are “consolidating the stature of this nation and granting women all their rights, including driving cars,” added Qazi
“We take pride in this great day and this important privilege, celebrating National Day for the first time from behind the driving wheel,” she said.
“We also take pride in the nation’s achievements at all levels, and we are endeavoring to highlight the status of women in all fields.”
Psychologist and sociologist Hasna Al-Tallahi said the Kingdom has established itself as the strongest nation in the region by promoting its political and economic position, winning the respect of the entire world and respecting women’s status.
“It also managed to hinder the efforts of many parties to diminish the role of women in all fields,” she added.
“When women obtained some of their rights, most importantly driving, they felt free. They were responsible for their time and family, and were not at the mercy of drivers and society.”
King Salman supports the rights of the most vulnerable worldwide, and the rights of Saudi women by listening to their demands, Al-Tallahi said, expressing great pride in her nation, its leadership and people.
“Challenges are always present and so are their solutions,” she added. “With each new challenge, solutions are created … to achieve women’s progress, growth and advancement.”’
Mesbah Abdulhakim, a supervisor at a hotel in Makkah, said the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan gives a great deal of attention to women’s issues.
“Lifting the driving ban imposed on women paved the way for many job opportunities in various sectors, not only in health and education,” she added.
Journalist Amira Qatabri said: “Lifting the driving ban on women led to a division between the conservative movement, which controls many aspects of social life in the Kingdom, and a more understanding and open elite.”
Women being able to drive is not just symbolic, but part of what may be the largest transformation in Saudi society in half a century, she added.
Hind Khalid Al-Zahid, the first female Saudi executive director — for the Dammam Airport Co. — and head of the Businesswomen’s Center at the Eastern Province’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “This is a very important year in the Kingdom’s history.”
She said: “It establishes a foundation for equal rights and opportunities for men and women, giving women an opportunity to be part of what is happening in the Kingdom regarding national transformation, in line with Vision 2030.”
Saudi actor and presenter Khairiah Abu Laban said: “I am really short for words, and do not know how to thank our leadership for this beautiful feeling.”

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