Saudi billionaire Prince Walid bin Talal has weighed in on the ongoing debate on women’s right to drive, saying “the time has come” to recognize it.
Writing in his personal website, Bin Talal said the spirit of the times “oblige us to make a political decision on the matter and allow female citizens to get a license and be able to drive.”
He said that as a result, the country’s society and economy will prosper, and many Saudi families will save a lot of money that is now spent on about one million foreign chauffeurs.
“In addition, these women will be spared the sin of forbidden dwelling [in the same car with the driver, in their husbands’ absence],” he wrote.
However, he added, restrictions should be imposed on women drivers, such as “banning them from driving in rural areas, restricting their right to drive private cars only, as well as employing women as transport police officers, to attend to road accidents involving women.”
The Saudi Prince anticipated a conservative backlash among some, especially those able to afford hiring drivers, but at the end of the day most Saudi families would stand to gain.
Meanwhile, the Saudi media extensively covered Princess Nora University’s decision to authorize sports sessions for women.
“Saudi Arabia witnesses a brave step for female athletics in the world’s largest women-only university,” Al Hayat newspaper wrote.
The decision is meant to encourage exercise among women and “promote a healthy society.”
As part of Vision 2030, a long-term modernization plan led by Prince Mohammed, the heir to the throne, the proportion of Saudis who exercise should rise from 13 percent today to 40 percent in 2030.