Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced that women will be allowed to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom next summer, fulfilling a key demand of women's rights activists who faced detention for defying the ban. The kingdom was the only country in the world to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity internationally for detaining women who defied the ban, the AP reports. The move, which has been welcomed by the United States, represents a significant opening for women in Saudi Arabia, where women's rights have steadily and slowly gained ground over the years. Saudi women remain largely under the whim of male relatives due to guardianship laws.
King Salman and his young son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have tested the waters though, allowing women into the country's main stadium in the capital, Riyadh, for national day celebrations this month. The stadium had previously been reserved for all-male crowds to watch sporting events. The king and his son have also opened the country to more entertainment and fun. The state-run Saudi Press Agency and state TV reported the news late Tuesday evening, saying King Salman decreed that both men and women to be issued drivers' licenses. Women, however, will not be allowed to obtain licenses immediately. A committee will be formed to look into how to implement the new order, which is slated to come into effect in June 2018.