By Ellen Asermely
By Ellen Asermely
Rabat – Outspoken member of the Saudi royal family Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has urged an end to the ban on women driving in his country in a statement on his official Twitter account.
Although Alwaleed holds no political position, he is an influential figure who chairs Kingdom Holding Co., whose interests include US bank giant Citigroup and Euro Disney, according to Al Jazeera.
The tweet read, “Stop the debate: Time for women to drive.” Alwaleed’s office also released a longer statement explaining the reasons behind ending the ban. His justification included economic necessity in addition to moral reasons.
The prince, who has long advocated for women’s rights, writes: “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”, adding that “They are all unjust acts by a traditional society.”
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Stop the debate:
Time for women to drivehttps://t.co/6KAniFa4BT
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The driving ban is also harming the Saudi economy, draining billions of dollars each year, says Al Jazeera.
Women are forced to rely on private drivers or taxis for mobility. Alwaleed calculated families spend an average of $1,000 per month on a driver. As Saudi Arabia deals with low oil prices, lifting the ban “has become an urgent social demand predicated upon current economic circumstances,” said the prince.
The conservative kingdom began slowly granting more rights to women under the late King Abdullah, who appointed some women to the Shura Council and allowed women to vote and run in municipal elections.
The prince’s comments have given hope to women in Saudi Arabia, the only country with such a driving ban. Women’s rights activists hope that support from such an influential figure could help affect real change.
However, the prince did not call for total freedom, including restrictions such as preventing women from driving outside of cities and from driving any vehicles larger than a car.
The prince’s controversial comments sparked a debate on Twitter, drawing both support and criticism.