Women in Saudi Arabia rejoiced and celebrated as they were legally allowed to drive cars from midnight (2.30 am Indian time) on Sunday. The conservative Muslim kingdom had announced last year that it would lift its ban on female drivers at the end of June.

“It is a historic moment for every Saudi woman,” Saudi television presenter Sabika al-Dosari told AFP.

Women drove up and down a road in Al Khobar city at night and cheered as the police looked on, Reuters reported. “We are ready, and it will totally change our life,” said Samira al-Ghamdi, a 47-year-old psychologist from Jeddah, one of the first women to be issued a licence.

The Saudi General Traffic Directorate began to issue domestic driving licences to women who have international ones on June 4. Several other women are training at new state-run schools, and three million women are expected to drive by 2020.

Some Saudi men have expressed their dissatisfaction with the change, and are using an Arabic hashtag for “You won’t drive” in their social media posts, BBC reported. Others welcomed the move.

Women celebrate after they drove their cars in Al Khobar. (Credit: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)
Hannan Iskandar gets ready to drive her car in her neighbourhood (Credit: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)
Sabika Habib adjusts the mirror of her car while she is on her way to Bahrain. (Credit: Hussain Radwan/AFP)
Samira al-Ghamdi, a psychologist, drives to her workplace in Jeddah. (Credit: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)
A Saudi woman gets her car refuelled while on her way to work in Dammam. (Credit: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)

On May 19, Saudi authorities had detained seven women’s rights advocates who campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the male guardianship system. A Saudi government statement released on Saturday said that the activists had been arrested on charges that included “suspicious contact with foreign parties”, without naming them.