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Saudi prince Al-waleed bin Talal says it’s high time women be allowed to drive

Saudi Arabia’s outspoken Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Thursday said that it’s about time the kingdom let women drive.
Alwaleed

Saudi Arabia’s outspoken Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Thursday said that it’s about time the kingdom let women drive.

“Such a ban on driving is fundamentally an infringement on a woman’s rights,” Prince Alwaleed bin Talal wrote in a four-page letter on his personal website.

He said that preventing a woman from car driving is an issue of rights similar to the one that forbade her from receiving education or having an independent identity. “They are all unjust acts by a traditional society far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion,” he wrote.

Prince Alwaleed’s statement is unlikely to affect policy in the kingdom. Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and a contender for the throne, had said in April that he was “not convinced” Saudi society would accept women drivers.

Alwaleed is an 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.

Alwaleed has been in favour of women’s rights in the kingdom, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that doesn’t allow women to drive, the law does not technically forbid them from getting behind the wheel. Rather, only men are awarded driving license.

He said that fatwas, or religious rulings, used to justify it were the “product of their times,” and that the decision was “clearly and intrinsically political. While outlining his reasons for supporting an end to the ban he pointed out economic reasons estimating that more than one million drivers are employed to drive women around in the kingdom, many of whom are foreigners that receive 3,800 riyals, or about $1,000, a month to chauffeur women.

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