The secretary-general of the United Nations has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s move allowing women to drive in the kingdom beginning next summer.
Antonio Guterres wrote on Twitter early Wednesday: “I welcome Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift the ban on women drivers. An important step in the right direction.”
Saudi is the only country in the world that bars women from driving. The change came in a royal order reported by state media late Tuesday that takes effect next June.
President Donald Trump also commended Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive.
“President Donald J. Trump commends the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s decision today to affirm the right of women to drive in the kingdom,” a White House statement read.
“This is a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia.”
Earlier, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert hailed the “very positive sign.”
“We’re just happy today,” she added.
Prince Khaled bin Salman, the new Saudi ambassador to Washington, said letting women drive is a “huge step forward” for his country.
He told reporters in Washington that it was the right time for Saudi Arabia to do the right thing. The ambass0ador said his government views women driving as a social issue, not a religious or cultural issue.
Salman said women won’t need permission legally from a male guardian to get a driver’s license and won’t need a guardian in the vehicle with them to drive. He says Saudi Arabia will recognize driver’s licenses issued to women in other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
The ambassador said Saudi Arabia isn’t taking the step at the request of the U.S. and that the issue didn’t come up during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the kingdom.