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Saudi women cannot drive in Switzerland

Saudi women can no longer drive in Switzerland because changes to local laws require all drivers to have licenses issued in their home countries, according to the Kingdom’s embassy in that country.
Saudi Ambassador to Switzerland Hazim Karkatli has issued a warning that driving on Swiss roads without a license from the Kingdom would constitute a traffic offense.
Saudi drivers must have a translation of their original license, in addition to an international license, Karkatli was quoted as saying in a local publication recently.
A Saudi citizen said three Swiss companies recently refused to rent him a car because he did not have his original license or a copy with a seal from the embassy. He only found out about the new laws when he visited the embassy, he said.
He said embassy officials in Geneva had informed him that the move is aimed at preventing some Saudi travel agencies from issuing international driver’s licenses to women even though they do not have ones issued in the Kingdom.
In a related matter, a source at the Saudi embassy in Germany said German traffic authorities allow people to drive if they have international driver’s licenses.
Rashid Al-Maqait, deputy chairman of the Saudi Society for Travel and Tourism, said that because of the government's lax control over the 1,500 travel operators in the Kingdom, there can be instances of violation of the law regarding the issue of international driver’s licenses.
Many of these violations can cause difficulties for Saudi travelers, but most occur at small travel offices. Large travel companies are careful to avoid mistakes that can affect their reputation. He said the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities should have more control over travel agencies.
The Saudi embassies in Switzerland and Germany said that about 20 passports are stolen in each country every year. There are also several reports from Saudi tourists that their money had been stolen.
Embassy officials said that they work closely with the police in these countries to investigate the cases. The cases of theft are mostly for money, not Saudi passports, they said.
Karkatli said that another problem faced by Saudi citizens abroad is that maids sometimes run away so that they can get asylum and live in Europe or the United States.
He said only three maids ran away from their sponsors abroad last year, which was a result of the warnings that embassies have issued. He said Swiss police are not obliged to return a runaway maid to her sponsor. He said 30,000 Saudi tourists visited Switzerland last year.

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