Saudi Arabia to Allow Women to Drive Starting Next Summer

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Announced Tuesday, Saudi Arabia will now be allowing women to drive, but the change won't take effect until June of 2018.

Coming on the heels of a broad reform program that also allowed women to enter sports stadiums last week, King Salman announced in a royal decree that drivers licenses would be issued to women who wanted them.

​Cheering on the change, US officials also welcomed the decree.

​"We would certainly welcome that," US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Tuesday. "It's a great step in the right direction for that country."

​Per Saudi State News agency SPA, the decree triggered government ministries to prepare a report within 30 days before it is to be implemented.

"The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike," the agency reported.

Officials in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, have in the past offered numerous explanations to ban women from getting behind the steering wheel.

Saudi women leave a polling station after casting their votes during municipal elections, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 12, 2015 - Sputnik International
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Back in May, the country's most senior cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh reignited protests surrounding the ban after claiming that exposing women to driving would be a 'dangerous matter' and that it would make it impossible for families to keep track of their female relatives.

Women in the Kingdom have been barred from driving since the late 1970s, the Daily Beast reported.

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