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Saudi Arabia issues first driving licenses to women amid crackdown

Saudi women ready for right to take the wheel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Saudi Arabia has issued the first driving licenses to 10 women as it prepares to lift the world's only ban on women driving on June 24, but the surprise move comes as a number of women who'd campaigned for the right to drive are under arrest. The government issued a statement saying the 10 women were issued the licenses at the General Department of Traffic in the capital, Riyadh, on Monday.

International media weren't present for the event.

The women took a brief driving test before receiving their licenses as they'd already held driving licenses from other countries, including the U.K., Lebanon and Canada.

The surprise move comes as four iconic Saudi women's rights activists who'd campaigned for the right to drive remain under arrest, facing possible trial.

Saudi Women Driving
This image released by the Saudi Information Ministry, shows a Saudi woman buckling her seat belt before doing a driving test at the General Department of Traffic in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Monday, June 4, 2018.  Saudi Information Ministry via AP

In March, "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell visited the country's first driving school for women. Dr. Ruba Alzuhairi was one of the women studying at the Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh.

"This will also decrease some of the cost that I'm paying on taxis, on a driver. This will help me be independent," Alzuhairi said.

"This is a small change, but it's a significant impact on our society," said another woman studying there. She says men are "significantly positive" about the idea. "That's why it's the right timing. Back in 2011 and 2013 there was negative reaction."