'Saudi Arabia will never be the same again': Twitter reacts to royal decree allowing women to drive

In a first, Saudi king issues decree allowing women to driveNewsweek

Saudi King Salman issued a royal decree in Riyadh on Tuesday (26 September) ordering that women will be allowed to drive cars in the country. The historic victory, which comes after years of advocacy in the conservative kingdom, was met with celebration and sarcasm on Twitter. Saudi Arabia has long been criticised for being the only country in the world that bans women from driving.

The welcome decision was announced in a royal decree reported by the state-run Saudi Press Agency and state TV that said women would be allowed to drive "in accordance with the Islamic laws" and a ministerial body would be formed to organise the implementation of the order by 24 June 2018.

The historic move immediately drew cheers from activists on Twitter who have campaigned for more than 25 years for the right to drive in the country, often facing arrest or harassment in the process.

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Manal al-Sharif, one of the main drivers behind the Women2Drive campaign that launched in 2011 who drew global attention after she posted a YouTube video of herself driving in the Arab country, tweeted: "Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop."

She also posted a photo of herself behind the wheel of a car on Twitter to celebrate the victory.

Saudi activist Loujain Halthloul, who was jailed for 72 days in 2014 for attempting to cross into Saudi Arabia from the US in her car tweeted in Arabic: "Thank God."

However, the landmark decision also drew scepticism and sarcasm with many Twitter users questioning whether the decision was as progressive in light of the country's human rights violations. Some argued that the Saudi women would still fall under the male guardianship system, which would potentially still forbid them from driving without the permission of their male family members.

"There is a long struggle ahead. Guardianship laws still exist, and the culture means men still control the lives of their wives, daughters," journalist Jennine Khalik tweeted.

David Burge tweeted: "I would have preferred he stopped stoning gay people to death, but hey baby steps. I agree it's a encouraging sign, but banning women from driving ranks about 8,349th on Saudi Arabia's list of human rights violations."

Still, many voiced hope that the move marked a step in the right direction.

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Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy tweeted: "Welcome to the 21st century. Salute #Saudi women who have fought for this for decades."

"There's much work yet to be done for women's rights in Saudi Arabia, e.g. male guardianship," novelist Laila Lalami tweeted. "But today's news is great! Let's celebrate it."

Saudi Arabia will finally allow women to drive and Twitter erupted with joy, sarcasm and skepticism.MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

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