Saudi Arabia's women drivers get ready to
steer their lives
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[June 19, 2018]
DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - On
June 24, when Saudi women are allowed to drive for the first time, Amira
Abdulgader wants to be sitting at the wheel, the one in control, giving
a ride to her mother beside her.
"Sitting behind the wheel (means) that you are the one controlling the
trip," said the architect, dressed in a black veil, who has just
finished learning to drive. "I would like to control every single detail
of my trip. I will be the one to decide when to go, what to do, and when
I will come back."
Abdulgader is one of about 200 women at the state oil firm Aramco taking
advantage of a company offer to teach female employees and their
families at its driving academy in Dhahran to support the social
revolution sweeping the kingdom.
"We need the car to do our daily activities. We are working, we are
mothers, we have a lot of social networking, we need to go out - so we
need transport," she said. "It will change my life." (Click for Wider
Image picture essay https://reut.rs/2thn2qN
Women make up about five percent of Aramco's 66,000 staff, meaning that
3,000 more could eventually enroll in the driving school.
Last September, King Salman decreed an end to the world's only ban on
women drivers, maintained for decades by Saudi Arabia's deeply
conservative Muslim establishment.
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Driving instructor Ahlam al-Somali (R) reads instructions before
getting ready to drive with trainee Maria al-Faraj at Saudi Aramco
Driving Center in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed
But it is his son, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who
is the face of the wider social revolution.
Many young Saudis regard his ascent to power as proof that their
generation is finally getting a share of control over a country
whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the
province of old men.
For Abdulgader, June 24 will be the day to celebrate that change,
and there is only one person she wants to share it with.
"On June 24, I would like to go to my mother's house and take her
for a ride. This is my first plan actually, and I would like really
to enjoy it with my mother. Just me and my mother, without anyone
(Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alison
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