Riyadh issues first female licenses, but keeps activists in prison

The driving ban will be abolished on June 24. Critics say that Riyadh does not want to grant further reforms. The right to drive is not enough, the law of the guardian must be abolished.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Saudi government has issued the first driving licenses to 10 women, but in the meantime activists for the women's rights are still in prison.

The 10 licenses were issued yesterday to women already in possession of driving licenses in other countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Lebanon and Canada. Each of the future drivers passed a short driving test and a visual check.

The driving ban will be abolished on June 24th. For a long time, the Saudis have complained about being forced to hire expensive drivers, moving in taxis or having to rely on male relatives to go to work or to shop.

However, the first licences were issued while at least four women's freedom activists remain in prison. Among the arrested activists are Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Nafjan, some of the most determined and well-known Saudi voices for women's rights.

They maintain the right to drive is not enough: the law of the guardian must also be abolished, which imposes on women the obligation to have the permission of the closest male relative for important aspects of their life, such as marriage and travel abroad .

For critics, the crackdown casts a shadow over the reforms of the "Vision 2030" program ordered by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: they believe, Riyadh is not willing to grant other freedoms to Saudi citizens.