Saudi prince says women must drive

The Myanmar Times - - World -

AN out­spo­ken Saudi prince has called for an “ur­gent” end to his coun­try’s ban on women driv­ing.

“Stop the de­bate: Time for women to drive,” Prince Al­waleed bin Talal said on his of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count, @Al­waleed_Talal.

Prince Al­waleed, a billionaire, is an un­usu­ally out­spo­ken mem­ber of the Saudi royal fam­ily who holds no po­lit­i­cal posts but chairs King­dom Hold­ing Co., in­ter­ests of which in­clude US bank­ing gi­ant Cit­i­group and the Euro Dis­ney theme park.

The phi­lan­thropist is a long­time ad­vo­cate of women’s rights in the king­dom, which has some of the world’s tight­est re­stric­tions on women and is the only coun­try where they are not al­lowed to drive.

In con­junc­tion with his short tweet, Prince Al­waleed’s of­fice is­sued a state­ment out­lin­ing his rea­sons for sup­port­ing an end to the ban.

“Pre­vent­ing a woman from driv­ing a car is to­day an is­sue of rights sim­i­lar to the one that for­bade her from re­ceiv­ing an ed­u­ca­tion or hav­ing an in­de­pen­dent iden­tity,” the prince said in the state­ment.

“They are all un­just acts by a tra­di­tional so­ci­ety, far more re­stric­tive than what is law­fully al­lowed by the pre­cepts of re­li­gion.”

He also de­tailed the “eco­nomic costs” caused by women hav­ing to rely on “for­eign” pri­vate driv­ers or taxis. Even if their hus­bands can take time out to trans­port them, that re­quires tem­po­rar­ily leav­ing the of­fice and “un­der­mines the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the work­force.

“Hav­ing women drive has be­come an ur­gent so­cial de­mand pred­i­cated upon cur­rent eco­nomic cir­cum­stances,” Prince Al­waleed said.

Saudi Ara­bia’s oil rev­enues fell by 51 per­cent last year fol­low­ing a col­lapse in global prices.

As a re­sult, the gov­ern­ment has de­layed ma­jor projects, cut spend­ing, and raised prices for ev­ery­day ser­vices in­clud­ing wa­ter and elec­tric­ity.

The king­dom in April an­nounced its Vi­sion 2030 plan to di­ver­sify its oilde­pen­dent econ­omy and em­ploy more Saudis, in­clud­ing women.

Un­veil­ing that plan, Deputy Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, 31, said so­cial change can­not be forced.

On women driv­ing, he said: “So far the so­ci­ety is not per­suaded ... but we stress that it is up to Saudi so­ci­ety”.

Photo: EPA

Prince Al­waleed bin Talal says women have the right to drive.

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