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Saudi authorities issue first driver's license to woman

By Sommer Brokaw

June 4 (UPI) -- Authorities in Saudi Arabia issued the first driver's license to a woman on Monday as the process began to enable women to drive there for the first time in decades.

The Saudi General Traffic Directorate in Riyadh started allowing women to trade in international licenses for national ones at various locations around the kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency announced.

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King Salman issued a royal decree in September lifting the ban on women driving in the country.

The licensing is part of the preparations with authorities saying last month that Saudi women would be able to start driving in the kingdom by June 24.

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Driving schools are also being set up across the kingdom with some female instructors who learned to drive in other countries.

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women could not drive due to a strict brand of Islamic law that also says that women should have a male guardian. While some thought that women did not need to drive because a man could drive for her, a women's rights movement had sparked protests for change.

Salman instituted the change as part of a series of reforms under an initiative to expand the number of women in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030.

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The issuing of the driver's licenses comes on the heels of authorities temporarily releasing eight activists arrested last month who protested the country's ban on driving.

Among those arrested, Lujain al-Hathloul was previously arrested in November 2014 after she drove herself from Abu Dhabi to the Saudi border and attempted to cross, Human Rights Watch reported.

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