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Historic moment as Saudi Arabia gives women driving licenses for first time ever

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Saudi Arabia has given women driving licenses for the first time ever ahead of the repeal of a decades long ban on female drivers.

Ten women made history on Monday (June 4) as they collected their driving licenses in cities around the country, however, several campaigners who fought hard to end this sexist ban have been forced to celebrate behind bars following a crackdown on campaigners which has seen many imprisoned over recent weeks.

The driving ban is set to be lifted on June 24 with around 2,000 women expected to request a license, the Saudi information ministry have said.

While this is a historic moment, charity Amnesty International has slammed the kingdom for imprisoning prominent women’s rights activists in the lead up to the repeal of this controversial ban.

"The lifting of the ban on driving is a real contradiction when we see the activists who have dedicated their campaign efforts remain in detention," Samah Hadid, Middle East director of campaigns at Amnesty International said.

One leading figure in the campaign for women's driving rights, Loujain al-Hathloul, is believed to be one of those being held.

In total seventeen activists have reportedly been detained, with Saudi prosecutors confirming eight of those have since been released.

The lifting of the driving ban forms part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plan for modernising Saudi society and promoting a “moderate” version of Islam.

Limits on what women can do still remain. Saudi law enforces a strict form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, which includes gender segregation rules and requires women to have a male chaperone when traveling in public.

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