Is Saudi Arabia about to lift its decades-old ban on women driving cars?
Soon enough, according to at least one member of the ruling family.
During an interview with a privately-owned TV channel, Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah, who is also a former Saudi education minister, said he had "no doubt" women will drive.
“The ban on women driving has been imposed on us, and women in the past used to lead their own camels. Women need to be empowered because they represent more than half of the society and they are highly dependable,” Bin Abdullah said, presenting a strikingly different tone on the issue.
“Maybe some people are afraid of change, but it is inevitable. Change in all cases must start from within and women need to prove their success and their positive influence on society,” he added.
Prince Faisal's statement comes amid various reforms in the Gulf kingdom, which is one of the world's most gender-segregated countries.
A very important part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious “Vision 2030” plan, which aims to diversify the oil-reliant economy, is to boost female employment.
Over the past year, Saudi women have been granted basic rights, which should not have been taken away from them to begin with. For example, they have been allowed to participate in local elections and sit on the government advisory Shura Council.
Meanwhile, calls for revoking the driving ban on women have increased, even from among the ruling family. In December, another prominent Saudi prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, wrote in a blog that women should drive, arguing it’s an “infringement on a woman’s rights.”
However, despite the recent groundbreaking changes and pleas for lifting the ban, Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.
In fact, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, who is spearheading Vision 2030, said last year the Saudi community is “not convinced about women driving.”