At 12 AM AST on Sunday, Saudi women hit the open road for the first time. But the new freedom has less to do with feminism than with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s economic plan Vision 2030, as the need to be shuttled everywhere was a barrier to joining the workforce. A mother of two tells USA Today that on a hot day, an Uber could take up to an hour to arrive.
Although women will not have to ask permission to obtain a driver’s license, they are also still seriously limited by restrictive guardianship, the policy under which Saudi women must ask permission from male relatives or husbands to travel, marry, and make general life choices which, as the Human Rights Watch puts it, “effectively render[s] adult women legal minors.” Meanwhile the Saudi government is still detaining women’s rights activists who have fought for the right to drive as well as against hijabs, guardianship and separate justice systems for supposedly colluding with foreign enemies.
“There can be no real celebration on June 24 while the women who campaigned for the right to drive and their supporters remain behind bars,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
But even with all of the caveats and limits, many are commemorating the midnight spin.