Saudi ban on women drivers an 'unjust act', says prince
One of Saudi Arabia's wealthiest princes has called for Saudi women to be allowed to drive, saying the kingdom's ban was an "unjust act by a traditional society".
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has no official position in the government but with a net worth estimated at $18.4bn (€17.3bn) he is one of the world's richest men and an influential figure in Saudi Arabia.
The prince tweeted "Stop the debate: time for women to drive" and released a long statement arguing a moral and pragmatic case for allowing women to drive.
"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," he said.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that forbids women drivers and female citizens face many other restrictions, including travelling alone without a male chaperone.
"They are all unjust acts by a traditional society, far more restrictive than what is lawfully allowed by the precepts of religion," he said.
He also argued the ban on female drivers meant many families were spending around $1,000 (€942) a month on a hired driver - usually a non-Saudi who sent their wages back home.
As the economy grapples with the low price of oil, Prince Alwaleed said replacing foreign male drivers with Saudi women would boost the domestic economy.
But the prince's endorsement of women driving was not without caveats. To provide for "an element of moderation" he suggested a number of restrictions, including preventing women from driving outside cities and driving trucks, vans or other vehicles larger than a car.
He also suggested bringing female officers into the police's traffic unit "who will deal with women in the event of their being involved in accidents or traffic violations".
A slow expansion of women's rights began under the late King Abdullah, who in 2013 named them to the Shura Council which advises cabinet. He also announced women could for the first time vote and run in municipal elections. (© Daily Telegraph London)