NEW YORK (September 26, 2017) — On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman signed a royal decree formally permitting women to drive.
Previously, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that enforced a ban on women drivers. The new policy will be implemented starting on June 24, 2018.
“This day will be remembered for generations to come as a tremendous victory for women’s rights, and for civil society. Against all odds, civil society leaders like Women2Drive’s Manal al-Sharif were able to triumph over one of the world’s most repressive regimes,” HRF President Thor Halvorssen said. “Activists, having weaponized public exposure and the moral high ground, are leading the fight against authoritarianism, and it is crucial to support them.”
In 2012, Manal al-Sharif was awarded the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent at the Oslo Freedom Forum for spearheading the Women2Drive campaign. In 2011, she uploaded a video of herself driving to YouTube, launching a movement that subsequently led to her imprisonment. In her Oslo acceptance speech, she explains how individual actions can spark broader change, and accurately concluded with, “The rain starts with a single drop.”
“Saudi Arabia can move forward with confidence,” Manal al-Sharif said today in a message to HRF. “Women are no longer in the back seat. We are now leading the change in my country.”
The Saudi dictatorship is one of the world’s worst violators of individual rights. Women face constant discrimination and are subject to a male guardianship system that forbids them from making decisions about travel, marriage, work, and more without the consent of a male guardian.