Aseel Al-Hamad will make another breakthrough for Saudi Arabian women on Sunday by driving a Formula One vehicle ahead of the French Grand Prix.
Saudi women celebrated being able to drive for the first time in decades Sunday, as the kingdom overturned the world's only ban on female motorists, a historic reform expected to usher in a new era of social mobility.
"While we welcome the fact that women can finally get behind the wheel, we should not forget that many people are still behind bars for their work in fighting for women's rights in Saudi Arabia", Samah Hadid, Amnesty's Middle East campaigns director, said in a statement.
"A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand", Al-Falih said in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting.
"It feels weird; I am so happy".
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Women in Saudi Arabia will today take to the steering wheel for the first time as the ultra-conservative kingdom starts sweeping economic and social reforms, overturning longstanding restrictions rooted in a rigid interpretation of Islam.
"Now, thanks to God, I can plan out my own schedule and my errands and my daughters' errands", al-Mari said. "I'm just too proud to be doing this right now".
The change should save families billions of dollars on chauffeurs while encouraging more women into the workforce and increasing productivity, if only modestly at first.
The Saudi government, under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, is phasing in an ongoing series of reforms to both diversify the Saudi economy and to liberalize its society.
She played a large role in the Women2Drive campaign.
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Official statistics show that women make up the overwhelming majority of job seekers in Saudi Arabia and that around 34 percent of Saudis seeking employment are between 25 and 29 years old.
Many women were seen driving to their offices on Sunday morning, while a few were driving on the outskirts of Riyadh to acclimatize themselves with the environment before they hit the roads. "And we have more than 700 already graduated and got their license", said Amel Attia from Emirates Driving Institute, who set up SDS. Ahead of allowing women to drive, the kingdom passed a law against sexual harassment with up to five years prison for the most severe cases.
Granting women the right to drive is part of a wider blueprint for the future drawn up by the crown prince. There's also a waitlist of several months for a course at Princess Nora University in Riyadh. In many cases, women say they'll wait to see how the situation on the streets pans out and how male drivers react.
Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that two more women's rights campaigners had been arrested in recent days "in what appears to be an unrelenting crackdown on the women's rights movement".
It also places women at the center of a tug-of-war between those agitating for more openings and a religious majority that remains wary of changes that could be influenced by the West.
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