Saudi Arabia issues its first driver's licenses to women

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A government statement said the 10 women who were issued licences already held driving licences from other countries, including the US, UK, Lebanon and Canada.

Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive, has long faced global criticism for what is seen as oppression of women.

Saudi women will be allowed to start driving in the kingdom from June 24, the General Department of Traffic Director General Mohammed al-Bassami had then said.

The 10 women - all of whom exchanged foreign driving licences for Saudi licences at the General Department of Traffic in the Saudi capital of Riyadh and other cities - were fully aware of the significance of their experience and generally overjoyed at being part of such an historic moment.

A video posted on Twitter shows the first woman being handed a driving license by officials, reports Al Arabiya.

In Saudi Arabia, women are legally required to get approval from a male guardian for legal decisions.

For the first time in more than 50 years, women will be able to drive legally in Saudi Arabia.

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They now face a range of charges, including communicating with people and organizations hostile to the kingdom and providing financial and moral support to hostile elements overseas.

About 2,000 licences are expected to be issued for women next week, according to a statement by the ministry of information. Reuters reported in May that police arrested at least five people who protested the country's ban on women driving.

Just four years ago, the country's top cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said barring women from driving "was in the best interest of society" because it protected them from having to deal with an accident.

The transition began on Monday days after Saudi Arabia detained 17 people for "undermining" the kingdom's security late last month, in what campaigners have dubbed a sweeping crackdown against activists.

"It's a dream come true that I am about to drive in the kingdom", Rema Jawdat, one of the women to receive a licence, was quoted as saying by the CIC.

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