Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has called for an end to the country’s ban on women driving. The billionaire prince who does not hold a political position in the kingdom, wrote about the ongoing debate on his Twitter account Tuesday.
“Stop the debate: Time for women to drive,” Alwaleed wrote in English and Arabic. He later issued a statement outlining his reasons for supporting an end to the ban. Alwaleed chairs the Riyadh-based investment firm Kingdom Holding Company, which holds stakes in several Western companies, including Twitter.
“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,” Alwaleed said. “They are all unjust acts by a traditional society, far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion.”
The prince also detailed the "economic costs" of 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," he said. "Having women drive has become an urgent social demand predicated upon current economic circumstances."
After talking about the financial, economic, political and religious factors associated with women's driving, Alwaleed said in the statement that certain restrictions and conditions need to be set for the granting of driving licenses to women.
These include, according to him, "requiring them to carry smartphones to be used when needed, ensuring that they are acquainted with available road assistance services in case of a car-breakdown, banning them from driving outside city limits, and limiting the licenses to driving cars."
Alwaleed is reportedly a longtime advocate of women’s rights in the kingdom, which has some of the world’s toughest restrictions on women. Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are not allowed to drive and, in the past, women's rights activists have been detained for defying the ban.
In April, while announcing the kingdom's Vision 2030 plan, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, said about the issue of women driving: "So far the society is not persuaded... but we stress that it is up to Saudi society.”