Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior has received more than 120,000 applications for driving licenses so far

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Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki of the Interior Ministry, left, and Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bassami of the Traffic Department at the press conference. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)
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A Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry spokesperson says the Ministry of Interior has established six driving schools for women in different regions of the Kingdom. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2018

Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior has received more than 120,000 applications for driving licenses so far

  • Six specialized driving schools have been issued licenses to train women in driving in five cities across the Kingdom.
  • Twenty-two centers have been opened in 22 cities and governorates to exchange foreign driving licenses for local ones for Saudi female citizens and residents.

RIYADH:  The Saudi government is doing everything to ensure safe driving, with regulations, laws and punishments applied equally to men and women without discrimination, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said on Sunday.

He said the ministry has received more than 120,000 applications for driving licenses so far and demand is still very high.

“Our preparation for this historic day started after the issuance of the royal decree,” Al-Turki said in a press conference. “We took into consideration the general safety of the traffic across the country.” 

There has been a huge effort put in to reduce the number of accidents, and to address the lack of driving experience among Saudi women, he added.

Al-Turki stressed that: “Six specialized driving schools have been issued licenses to train women in driving in five cities across the Kingdom. Four of these schools have already started operations and the fifth one in Qassim is nearing completion.

“Furthermore, we had already prepared 22 centers in 22 cities and governorates to exchange foreign driving licenses for local ones for Saudi female citizens and residents. We also intensified the use of technology on roads to ensure the ideal execution of all safety measures. We were keen to provide the technology needed to identify female drivers while driving (identifying her without asking her to remove her cover if she is covering).

“We trained 40 Saudi women for traffic checking (field checking) and they will start working within a few weeks as investigation assistants for investigating accidents,” he said. 

The Interior Ministry spokesman said: “Very strict harassment legislation was issued before the implementation of women driving; actually this legislation was issued to stand against harassment in all its forms and in all places, including the ones that can happen on road, and protect everyone, not only women, in the society from this brutal action.

“We took a very important step and I can safely say that we succeeded in achieving all the objectives we had nine months ago to ensure safe driving for everyone. We equally trust both females and males in sticking to the regulations and safety measures.”

The director general of the Traffic Department, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bassami, said his department had sent a number of police officers overseas to get trained on how to investigate car accidents, and since their return, they have been training their peers across the country. 

“We have developed an online site to specify dates for license exchange and have also developed an identity verification system. We closely cooperated with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to improve insurance packages and regulations. A strong database has been developed; speed limit signs, radars and CCTV are increased.

“We will announce the readiness of more cities and governorates to train women in more driving schools by next week,” Al-Bassami said.

When asked about the possibility of foreign women visiting Saudi Arabia to rent a car, Al-Turki said: “Yes, definitely, she only has to have a license and then she can.”

Asked whether any accidents or violations had been recorded, he said: “No. Besides, it is too early to start issuing figures. We have noticed in the past few hours that women are very responsible and aware.”

The speakers said that the authorities were studying the possibility of raising fines in order to reduce deaths and accidents.

Asked about the fine when catching an unlicensed woman driving, Al- Bassami said: “What applies for male drivers will definitely apply to females. Equal treatment for both.”

It also becomes a woman’s right to rent a car or make business related to buying, selling and renting cars. He added that Saudi women must immediately exchange their foreign driving license while a female visitor’s case will depend on her paperwork and residence duration. However, they commented that some women who had foreign driving license did not pass the driving test in Saudi Arabia, which is a sign that the Kingdom is following highest standards to ensure safe driving. 

KSRelief signs agreements for relief to Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

Updated 25 April 2019

KSRelief signs agreements for relief to Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

  • Al-Rabeeah: We have no hidden agenda in Syria and we work through international organizations

BEIRUT: The general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, signed on Wednesday seven agreements with Beirut and international and civil organizations operating in Lebanon to implement relief projects targeting Syrian and Palestinian refugees as well as the most affected host communities in Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who participated in the symposium at the Four Seasons Hotel Beirut to sign the agreements, praised the strong Saudi-Lebanese relations, which have existed for decades, and stressed Lebanon’s keenness to ensure their permanence and development.

He said: “The meetings Al-Rabeeah has held with different Lebanese political and religious authorities over the past two days during his visit to Lebanon, under the guidance of King Salman, indicate the Saudi leadership’s true desire to deepen the fraternal ties with the Lebanese, support Lebanon’s unity, independence, sovereignty and coexistence formula, and protect its existence from the repercussions of all the fires, crises and interventions that plague many countries.”

During the symposium, which was attended by a large group of political, religious and social figures, Al-Rabeeah called on the international donor community to shoulder more responsibility.

Addressing the implementing bodies, he said: “It is time to reconsider your working mechanisms in order to develop them and improve procedures to avoid negative impacts.”

“What I mean by reconsidering working processes is that there is a need to work professionally and skillfully because there are not many resources, and we must eliminate bureaucracy and speedily make the most of resources,” Al-Rabeeah told Arab News.

He stressed the importance of developing a close partnership between the donor and the implementer of projects, highlighting that KSRelief’s work is subject to international and regional oversight mechanisms as well as its own internal control mechanisms.

“We have two strategic partners, and when agreements are signed with the recipients of assistance, this means accepting oversight terms,” he said.

Al-Rabeeah said: “Saudi Arabia supports the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, and so is the case for Yemen.”

“Saudi Arabia has supported peaceful dialogues, which restore security and stability,” he said. “In order for this to happen in Syria, we support the efforts of the United Nations and implement (as KSRelief) relief programs inside Syria. We also have major programs and we count on the UN to ensure a safe return for Syrian refugees.”

On the Syrian regions in which KSRelief is implementing its programs and the difficulties faced, Al-Rabeeah told Arab News: “We have nothing to do with military or religious matters, and wherever there is security, we work. We also work through the UN and the international organizations inside Syria, and we do not have any hidden agenda in this field.”

He stressed that “participating in rebuilding Syria requires security and stability, and the Saudi leadership hopes for a peaceful solution as soon as possible. Until this is achieved, the relief work will continue and won’t cease.”

Al-Rabeeah announced that KSRelief is implementing a quality program to rehabilitate recruited children in Yemen alongside its education, protection, health and environment projects.

“There are those who recruit children to fight in Yemen, violating all humanitarian laws. Our center rehabilitates them so that they are not used as terrorist tools in the future,” he said.

Al-Rabeeah emphasized that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 has given relief work its share, especially in terms of volunteering programs. “We have great examples involved in the field,” he said.

Among the signed agreements was one with the Lebanese High Relief Commission (HRC) to carry out a project to cover the food needs of Lebanese families.

Chairman of Lebanon’s High Relief Commission Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair told Arab News that the agreement targets distributing 10,000 food rations to orphans, widows and destitute families in the poorest and most disadvantaged areas in Lebanon. “This project is encouraging and gives hope to people,” he said.

Khair said that there are 100,000 people in need in Bab Al-Tabbaneh district alone, pledging to commit to transparency during the implementation of the project. “It is not a question of sectarian balance; we are focused on those who are most in need,” he said.

The signed agreements include one for repairing, equipping, and operating the Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Center for Dialysis at the Makassed General Hospital, an agreement with the UNHCR worth $5 million to implement a project for assisting the most affected Syrian families for six months, an agreement to support Souboul Assalam Association in Akkar (northern Lebanon), an agreement with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to implement a project worth $3.8 million to cover the needs of Syrian families that are below the poverty line for a year, and an agreement with UNRWA to cover the medical needs and treatment of cancer and multiple sclerosis in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said: “The challenge facing UNRWA after the reduction of its budget is maintaining the operation of its 715 schools in the Middle East.”

“Saudi Arabia is a key partner for us, and owing to its help, we will be able to help cancer and multiple sclerosis patients,” he said.