Saudi Arabia issued its first driving licenses to 10 women on Monday, just weeks before the historic lifting of the ban on women motorists.
The 10 women who were issued licenses already held driving licenses from other countries such as the US, the UK, Lebanon and Canada, a government statement said.
Before receiving the licenses, the women took a brief driving test and eye exam at the General Department of Traffic in the capital, Riyadh.
Other women in Saudi Arabia are taking driving courses on female-only college campuses to prepare for the right to drive on June 24. Some of them are even training to become drivers for companies like Uber.
It is expected that an additional 2,000 women will join the ranks of licensed drivers across the country, according to the information ministry’s Center for International Communication.
The surprise move to issue some women licenses early came as activists who had campaigned for the right to drive remain under arrest, facing possible trial.
Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor said Sunday that 17 people had been detained in recent weeks on suspicion of trying to undermine security and stability.
Authorities said eight have been temporarily released, while five men and four women remain under arrest.
Saudi Arabia is the only country which does not allow women to drive.
Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been promoting changes, like the decision to allow women to drive.
In preparation for the lifting of the ban, Saudi Arabia last week passed a landmark law to criminalize sexual harassment, introducing a prison term of up to five years and a maximum penalty of 300,000 riyals (80,000 US dollars).
The prince has also attempted to appeal to young Saudis by opening the country to more entertainment, allowing music concerts and bringing the first commercial movie theater to Saudi Arabia this year.
(With input from AP, AFP)