Saudi women can now travel within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) using their smart identity cards without an exit letter or a passport, a senior official has said.
The decision gives women a travel privilege that was previously confined to men.
“There is no need now for the exit permit and Saudi women can travel within the GCC states and can benefit from the e-gates available,” Bader Bin Mohammad Al Malek, the spokesman for the passports directorate, told local Arabic daily Al Watan.
The GCC, made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, agreed in 2010 to allow their citizens to travel within the alliance on their national smart ID cards and without the need to carry a passport.
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The decision was warmly hailed by GCC citizens as a positive step towards the integration of the council founded in 1982 in Abu Dhabi.
Saudi women in 2010 were allowed to obtain high-tech ID cards without the need for a male ‘guardian’. However, they were still required permission from a man to travel abroad.
The travel empowerment is the latest in a series of obvious pro-women reforms launched mainly by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud since he became the country’s ruler in August 2005.
Last year, he announced that women would become members of the Consultative Council (parliament) in the next term and that women would have the right to run and vote in the 2015 municipal elections.
Although the Council’s statute does not oppose the membership of women and do not specify the gender of the appointed members, it has had since it was founded in 1993 only male members.
The first council (1993–1997) had a speaker and 60 members and the second (1997–2001) had a speaker and 90 members. The third council (2001–2005) had a speaker and 120 members and the fourth (2005–2009) had a speaker plus 150 members.