Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Billionaire Saudi prince tweets support for women driving

By Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
April 16, 2013 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal speaks during a press conference, on September 13, 2011, in Riyadh.
Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal speaks during a press conference, on September 13, 2011, in Riyadh.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alwaleed bin Talal says move would help the economy, reduce the number of foreign workers
  • But activist says it will mean more when Saudi Arabia's king addresses the issue
  • Women are prohibited from driving in Saudi Arabia, a deeply conservative kingdom
  • In 2011, the group Women2Drive demanded that women be given the right to drive in the country

(CNN) -- Billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has reiterated his support for giving women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, announcing via Twitter that it would help the economy and reduce the number of foreign workers there.

"The question of women driving will result in being able to dispense with at least 500,000 (foreign) drivers, in addition to the social and economic benefits," he tweeted Sunday.

In the deeply conservative kingdom, women are prohibited from driving, and many must rely on foreign drivers for transportation.

Women's rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider said Monday that she was glad to hear bin Talal's comments, but she didn't think it would amount to much.

"We got used to him saying the right things but nothing happens," she said. "I think he only makes headlines, but then nothing happens."

Al-Huwaider said that while she found it interesting that bin Talal put the issue in terms of how much it was costing the country, she has "stopped following any news reports about women driving" until she hears it addressed by Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia is home to around 9 million foreign workers. In recent weeks, thousands of them have been deported in a crackdown by authorities against illegal immigrants.

Last week, Saudi King Abdullah granted foreigners working there illegally a three-month grace period in order to legalize their status.

Bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world, is the nephew of Abdullah and is considered by some to be a champion of women's rights and empowerment.

Last year, his wife, Princess Ameerah al-Taweel, made headlines on the same issue when she spoke out, saying driving laws there should be reformed.

"I think it's a very easy decision," she told CNN's Christiane Amanpour last September. "And it is for the government. A lot of people are saying this is a social issue. ... Education was a social issue. And a lot of people in Saudi Arabia were against women getting educated. Yet the decision was made."

There are no specific traffic laws that make it illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. However, religious edicts are often interpreted as prohibiting female drivers. Such edicts also prevent women from opening bank accounts, obtaining passports or even going to school without the presence of a male guardian.

In 2011, a group called Women2Drive began a campaign demanding that women be given the right to drive in Saudi Arabia.

The movement was sparked by the arrest that year of Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi technology consultant and mother who was detained for nine days for driving her own car. Many of her supporters posted videos and pictures of themselves online driving in various Saudi cities.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
This is how the two U.S. aid workers infected with Ebola will be evacuated from west Africa.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
While aspects of the fighting in Gaza resemble earlier clashes, this time feels different, writes military analyst Rick Francona.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1829 GMT (0229 HKT)
How did al Qaeda recruit a former Florida high school footballer?
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1108 GMT (1908 HKT)
Flowers, a teddy bear and the smells of jet fuel and death haunt the MH17 crash site.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0354 GMT (1154 HKT)
If India and the U.S. were Facebook friends, the relationship between them would be "complicated." Can John Kerry's visit change that?
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
Take a look inside Airbus' new -- and surprisingly quiet -- A350XWB.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 0331 GMT (1131 HKT)
What're you doing after work today? If you lived in these cities you could head to the BEACH!
ADVERTISEMENT