JEDDAH, September 28 – The historic decision by King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive has been welcomed by the United Nations and OIC chiefs, world leaders, as well as many other popular personalities from across the globe.
Tuesday’s announcement of the King’s decision, which takes effect in June 2018, was met with cheers outside the Kingdom. The move is in line with the Vision 2030 blue print for the future, which is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Commending the move, US President Donald Trump said it was “a positive step towards promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia,” while the US State Department called it a “great step in the right direction”
British Prime Minister Theresa May went on to term the move an “important step towards gender equality”.
“The empowerment of women around the world,” she said, “is not only an issue I care deeply about, it is also key to nations’ economic development.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to grant women the right to drive as “a big step for Saudi society.”
In Brussels, the European Union (EU) welcomed the Royal Order allowing women to drive. A spokesman for the European External Action Service said the EU welcomes this step. EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis also said in a statement that this decision is an important step towards enhancing the role of women in the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had tweeted, “I welcome Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift the ban on women drivers. An important step in the right direction.”
Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), stressed this is a positive step within reform steps to continue development of the Kingdom and its citizens under the leadership of King Salman and the Crown Prince.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri also took to Twitter to comment on the news, tweeting, “Congratulations to all Saudis, way ahead for more progress and modernity”.
Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, tweeted in Arabic, “The happy news from Saudi Arabia continue to flow from all sectors.”
Noura Al Kaabi, the UAE Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, tweeted, “A historical & great moment for women in Saudi .. It is certainly a new era.”
Finland’s Ambassador to the Kingdom Pekka Voutilainen noted, “I truly appreciate the visionary leadership of King Salman and the Crown Prince on how women’s role should shape. It is a very positive development.”
South Korean Ambassador Pyung-oh Kwon told Arab News, “It will obviously positively effect on Saudi society and the economy as Vision 2030 aims.” Similar congratulatory remarks were made by Italian Ambassador Luca Ferrari and Austrian Ambassador Gregor W. Koessler.
POWERFUL DECISION … NEW ERA … HISTORY BEING WRITTEN
Leading writers and journalists were also among those who weighed in with their opinions.
“It’s a powerful decision for which history will remember King Salman, who showed determination in the face of darkness,” tweeted Egyptian writer Fatima Naoot.
“History is being written … #Saudi,” Rima Maktabi, Lebanese TV presenter and award-winning journalist, wrote on twitter in Arabic.
Calling it “exciting news for Saudi women,” Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, said it was a “a long time coming”.
According to Jane Kinninmont, senior research fellow at Chatham House, the move has proven to be the biggest overnight image-booster for Saudi Arabia internationally.
Dr. Ahmed Al-Monayyes, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Kuwait University in Kuwait City, tweeted that the issuance of a Royal Order to issue driver licenses to women in Saudi Arabia is a positive step which stresses that the ban was justified socially rather than on religious grounds.
For Kristin Diwan, of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, “putting women behind the wheel is the most effective way to announce to the world – and to Saudis – that the Kingdom is entering a new era.”
“Love to see progression,” tweeted international singer and actor Rihanna.