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'I am very happy': Saudi woman who lived in north Acton can now drive in her home country

Getwestlondon spoke to former west London resident Shahad AlZahrani about her views on the driving ban being lifted in Saudi Arabia

Saudi activists have been campaigning for the right to drive for many years(Image: Getty Images)

A Saudi woman who lived in west London for three years has expressed happiness and excitement after females in her home country were granted the right to drive.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman issued a decree on Tuesday (September 27) allowing women to request drivers' licences if they wish to do so.

According to the Saudi ambassador to Washington DC, the reform means that women in the rich middle eastern country can now drive by themselves, without the permission or presence of a legal guardian.

Shahad AlZahrani, who moved to north Acton in 2011, told getwestlondon : "I was against it [the ban] mostly because of the silly excuses around why there was a ban in the first place."

Now back in Jeddah, in western Saudi Arabia, Ms AlZahrani said she is "excited" and "very happy" for her country.

The 25-year-old continued: "The country is making progress but a slow one."

Like all other women in Saudi Arabia, Ms AlZahrani is now able to drive and hopes to buy her own vehicle in the future - but not immediately.

She said: "I am not going to jump in right ahead.

"I will give it at least six months until men get used to us [women] driving - there are going to be a lot of problems at first."

But for Ms AlZahrani the ban lift is just the first step to achieve gender equality in Saudi Arabia.

"I believe that eventually they will give women the same rights as men have - I doubt it will happen anytime soon," she said.

According to Human Rights Watch, adult women in the country still need to obtain permission from a male guardian to travel, marry or exit prison.

In addition, they might be required to provide guardian consent to work or access healthcare.

Manal Al-Sharif was one of the many Saudi woman fighting to change the law(Image: Carlos Latuff/Wikimedia Commons)

During her time in west London, Ms AlZahrani studied biochemistry at Kingston University but was not able to finish her degree as she was forced to go back to Saudi Arabia for "family reasons".

Speaking about living in the borough, she said: "I liked that I could walk in the streets and I liked that I didn't have to wait for anyone to get little things.

"The two cities are uncomparable."

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