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Saudi women woke up on Wednesday morning knowing they will soon be able to drive legally for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom's history after years of campaigning by activists inside and outside of the country.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz, 81, ordered the reform on Tuesday night, requesting that drivers' licences be issued to women who wanted them.

A Saudi cleric, Saad al-Hijr, was recently banned from preaching, after saying that women shouldn't drive because their brains shrink to a quarter of the size of a man's when they go shopping.

On Tuesday Prince Khaled bin Salman, the kingdom's USA ambassador, spoke of it being "an historic and big day in our kingdom", adding, "I think our leadership understands that our society is ready". "Driving is just a symbol of gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia, there are more important and urgent issues for women and for rest of society".

A hole was poked in that restriction last week, with women allowed to enter a sports stadium in Riyadh for Saudi National Day - in a family section, away from single men. It was only previous year that one of Saudi Arabia's wealthiest and most influential Princes (Prince Alwaleed bin Talal) called the driving ban "an unjust act by a traditional society", and it seems that things are slowly but surely changing for the better.

In reaction, praise poured in from Saudi Arabia and around the world, with US President Donald Trump stating that it was a "positive step" towards promoting women's rights. A committee will be formed to look into how to implement the new order, which is slated to take effect in June 2018.

Mohammed bin Salman, at 32 years old, is the country's new crown prince. Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman, says the USA applauds the move.

A negative slogan "the people refuse women driving" also sprang up.

Another Twitter user referred to vehicle insurance significantly increasing in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the decree.

One Saudi woman tweeted a picture of three women in a convertible going shopping, with the message: "Us soon". Prominent activists Fawziah al-Bakr, Manal al-Sharif, and Loujain Hathloul, who have all been arrested or detained for their work to lift the ban, celebrated the announcement with others across Twitter.

"We are trying to increase women's participation in the workforce".

Good news for Saudi women may be very bad news for the country's army of chauffeurs.

Women live under a draconian system of guardianship in Saudi Arabia, one where they require the permission of a male guardian, usually a father, or husband, to carry out daily activities.


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