US President Donald Trump has commended the decision of Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive in the ultra-conservative kingdom, describing it as a “positive step”. Saudi King Salman yesterday ordered that women be allowed to drive cars for the first time in the next summer, ending a conservative tradition seen by women’s rights activists. Trump “commends” the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s decision today to affirm the right of women to drive in the Kingdom, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. “This is a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia,” Sanders said. “We will continue to support Saudi Arabia in its to efforts to strengthen Saudi society and the economy through reforms like this and the implementation of Saudi Vision 2030,” she said in a statement. “We’re happy. We’re certainly happy to hear that. If Saudi women are now able to drive, certainly here in the United States we would certainly welcome that. It’s a great step in the right direction for that country,” the State Department Spokesperson, Heather Nauert, told reporters at her news. Amnesty International welcomed the Saudi decision.
“It is a testament to the bravery of women activists who have been campaigning for years that the government of Saudi Arabia has finally relented and decided to permit women to drive,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “This is a long overdue small step in the right direction and we welcome this move if it means all women in Saudi Arabia will finally be able to drive without any restrictions,” he said. “If by June next year women in Saudi Arabia are driving the streets without fear of arrest, then this will be a cause for celebration. But it is just one step.” “We also need to see a whole range of discriminatory laws and practices swept away in Saudi Arabia including the guardianship system where every woman has a male guardian, be it their father, brother, husband or son, having authority to make decisions on her behalf,” Luther said. The kingdom has been widely criticised for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving, despite gradual improvement on some women’s issues in recent years.