Women’s driving is “on its way” and women will soon be placed in charge of society not just cars.
These are the words of former Saudi education minister, Prince Faisal bin ِAbdallah earlier this week.
“The ban on women driving has been imposed on us; women in the past used to lead their own camels,” he continued during an interview on the Rotana Khaleejia network, according to Gulf Times.
“Women need to be empowered because they represent more than half of the society and they are highly dependable.”
These latest comments by a member of the royal family have been received with joy by many on Twitter, where the hashtag “Prince Faisal: women’s driving is coming” has been trending. The microblogging site has played host to much of the women’s rights campaigning within the highly conservative kingdom.
Prince Faisal is not, however, the first royal figure to call for a lift on the de facto driving ban. Last year a similar hashtag trended after Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal tweeted that it is “time for women to drive.”
Despite the Twitterstrorm that his words stirred up in November 2016, no action has yet been taken to reverse the rule that sees women caught driving stopped and detained for not having a Saudi driving license.
It seems unlikely, then, that the views of Prince Faisal, who no longer holds a government position after all, will influence a u-turn on the controversial law.
The Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has previously indicated that the government will take its lead from the Saudi people on the issue.
Muhammad bin Salman says: This issue is related to the will of the people, and the people refuse [to accept women’s driving], and we won’t enforce upon them something they don’t want.
This is an argument many social media commentators see as disingenuous, given what they describe as widespread support for change.
#الامير_فيصل_قياده_المراه_قادمه الحكومه مقتنعه ان القيادة حق لها بس ماتبي تكسر خاطر الفئه الضاله ولا المجتمع جاهز منذ٣٠سنه ننتظر شخطة القلم— Abdullah AL-Otaibi (@abdalotaibi992) May 30, 2017
The government is convinced that [women's] driving is their right but they don't want to upset the misled people, nor is society ready. We have been waiting for 30 years for the order to be signed.
#الامير_فيصل_قياده_المراه_قادمه— DH BIN SAEED ّضِيَاء (@msafr2002) May 30, 2017
كلنا مع قيادة المرأه وكلنا مقتنعين بذلك
الرافضين هم مجرد فئه صغيره متشدده تريد اجبار الجميع على خياراتهم
We all support women’s driving, and we are all convinced about it. Those who refuse it are merely a small and extreme segment [of our society] who want to impose their choices on everyone.
Saudi Arabia - the only country in the world to ban women from driving - has seen a gradual increase in women’s rights in recent times.
In 2011, the late King Abdullah took a landmark step to allow women onto the Shura council, which advises the government. This was followed by the decision to let women vote in municipal elections.
Earlier this month the government bowed to months of campaigning against the male guardianship system, announcing that women would no longer need permission from a relative to access public services.
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