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Saudi Arabia Gave 10 Women Their Driving Licenses

There are an estimated 10 million women living in the kingdom.

Posted on June 5, 2018, at 11:23 a.m. ET

Ten women were granted driving licenses by the Saudi Arabian authorities this week, in a first small step toward equality.

Untitled / AP

The licenses were issued by Saudi authorities in one of the first signs that the ultra-conservative kingdom is modernizing, on the back of a wave of promises by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

However, while some people did celebrate, others pointed out that the authorities had a way to go.

Aya Batrawy / Via Twitter: @ayaelb

Many of those women remain in detention by Saudi authorities.

Kareem Chehayeb, an Amnesty researcher focussing on Saudi Arabia based in Beirut, told BuzzFeed News that while news of the women's licenses was a happy occasion, it could not mask the continued human rights violations in the kingdom.

"At the same time it is very concerning and upsetting that many of the women, who have been campaigning on this matter, are still detained or were briefly detained earlier."

Discussing the Saudi government's extensive public relations push, as part of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's Saudi Vision 2030, Chehayeb said it should not necessarily be equated with genuine social reforms. Chehayeb noted: "While the sweeping nature of these arrests were shocking, the fact that they were arrested on these kinds of charges, and the conditions that they have been detained in, is nothing new unfortunately."

All the same, the move was trumpeted by governmental bodies, which said a further 2,000 licenses would be granted next week.

Untitled / AP

The official date for the lifting of the driving ban is June 24.

Here's video of one of the women, named online as Ahlam bint Abdelrahman al-Thnian, receiving her license after it was released by the authorities.

Ahlam bent Abdelrahman al-Thnian became the first #Saudi woman to receive her driving license. She is among 10 Saudi women who receive their driving licenses.

Authorities also released a video, briefly interviewing the women about getting their licenses for the kingdom.

A Twitter user with the handle @Ahlamalthunayan later posted an image of her license on Twitter, with the caption: "The dream became a reality."

شكرا للملك سلمان الداعم الدائم لتمكين المرأه وشكرا لولي عهده الامين الحلم اصبح حقيقه اللهم لك الحمد والشكر 🙏🏻

Saudi driving license, here I come inshallah 🚘💃🏽🚘💃🏽🚘💃🏽

Despite being able to drive, women who wish to leave the country, seek health care, or work must still receive permission from a man in their lives, a so-called guardian system that has been profoundly criticized by activists.

AP Images

But authorities also released a number of photographs of women receiving their permits and preparing to drive. This is Tahani Aldosemani, an assistant professor at Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz University in Al-Kharj near the capital, Riyadh.

Untitled / AP

And others were happy that this was finally a reality.

Mram / Via Twitter: @MramF_

“You deserve it, Ahlam Al Thanyan Um Saoud.

You are first and we are next.”

Among the most heavily publicized of Salman's reforms is a the full lifting of the ban on women driving, scheduled for June 24.

رخصة قيادة اخرى من بين ١٠ منحت الاثنين باسم ريمة بنت سعيد بن محمود جودت الى جانب رخصة احلام بنت عبد الرحمن ال ثنيان.

"I can't describe my feelings" #Saudi women are elated after being issued driver's licenses.

The rollout of just 10 driving licenses comes the same week as a heavily criticized Vogue Arabia cover featuring Saudi Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah al-Saud sitting in a car.

Vogue Arabia

The issue is being marketed as a celebration of "trailblazing" women of Saudi Arabia. The cover's main headline, "Driving Force," in addition to the setup of the shoot, references the changing laws around women driving.

Many people were quick to point out the new glamorous cover didn't acknowledge that women were still in jail for treason for attempting to drive before the ban was lifted.

And a number of people began "fixing" the cover, replacing the princess with women activists.

@ zhhgtoni

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.