Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Image Credit: Sabq

Manama: A Saudi former minister said that allowing women to drive was bound to happen and that women would be driving society, not just cars.

“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,” Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah said.

“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 said during a talk show on Rotana Khaleejia Television.

Prince Faisal who held the education portfolio in the Saudi kingdom from 2009 until 2013, said that he held Saudi women in high esteem and respected their achievements.

“I have great pride in Saudi women. They are mothers, wives and daughters and I take immense pride in them and in their faith, beliefs and commitments in our modern times. Women in Saudi Arabia are the bases of society and they hold a significant place in the Islamic civilisation. I am confident they can succeed whenever they have the opportunity,” he said, quoted by Saudi news site Sabq on Tuesday.

Prince Faisal is the latest of Saudi princes to call publicly for allowing women to drive.

In 2013, billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal tweeted in favour of allowing women to drive in the kingdom, sparking a heated debate on social media.

“Allowing women to drive will result in saving at least 500,000 jobs held by foreign drivers and subsequent economic and social benefits for the nation,” the billionaire prince posted on his Twitter account.

The presence of thousands of male drivers to drive mainly Saudi women and girls has been regularly used by supporters of allowing women to drive to highlight negative social and economic problems associated with the ban on women driving.

No legal text bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia and the issue is related mainly to social traditions.

The de facto ban has been at times challenged by women who, if spotted behind steering wheels, are pulled over by traffic police for driving without a Saudi licence. They are allowed to go home after they sign a pledge not to drive again.

Attempts by women and their supporters to get permission to drive have become more intense lately, but the challenges to overcome the stiff resistance of conservatives are proving singularly formidable.

The camps supporting and opposing lifting the social ban on women and allowing them to drive have been using religious, economic and social arguments to reinforce their positions.

The chasm between them is invariably clear in their reactions to reports related to women driving.