Dubai: In the past five decades Saudi Arabia has taken huge leaps in development unlike the perceptions of many outside that progress in the conservative country is at a turtle’s pace, said a Saudi princess.
Princess Reem Al Faisal told Gulf News that any development should not come in response to foreign calls, but rather to fulfill the aspirations of Saudi people.
“Saudi Arabia is in a continuous change. The problem is that people don’t see things moving, but actually the country is in a non-stop revolutions, socially and economic.”
“We are neither devils nor angels… We are like any other society. But there is no objective analysis [to situation in Saudi], and there are exaggerations from all sides. I have never met anybody who talks about Saudi Arabia without emotions. Either he or she loves it or hates it, and both are wrong.”
Princess Reem also refuted the view that women are oppressed. What has been achieved since 1960, when women were denied education, until today are massive, she said.
In some cases, the status of Saudi women are better than other countries, according to her.
“The Saudi women are richer. The cash that Saudi women have is estimated at $11 billion (Dh40.4 billion), and this doesn’t include assets, while they have more bank accounts that men,” she said.
Moreover, most of the people in the field of science, such as genetics and physics, are women in Saudi Arabia, added the princess.
Yet, Saudi women are not allowed to drive and travel without the company or permission of their male relatives. And only recently, women were appointed to the consultative council.
“To me, this all moves hovers around one thing: women status in the legislation. Women should have the right to legislate. Once this is achieved, all other problems will vanish,” she said, adding the women in Islamic history were allowed to legislate and teach Fiqh (Islamic teachings).
Changes that come in suitable time is better than changes that are imposed from outside.
“Already the changes in Saudi Arabia and the cultural shock are not matched to any other place.”
As an example, she quoted her father still recalling the days when people in Riyadh would use lamp light to walk in the streets, because there was no electricity. And when he was in New York in the ’60s, he remembers Saudi youth ,sent on scholarships, looking at escalators and wondering what is that.
Princess Reem founded, with a group of Saudi men and women, an NGO called “Na’am” (Yes) after the 9/11 attacks to open dialogue between “Islamic nations and other countries”.