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
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0249 GMT (1049 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
A Syrian cleric condemns ISIS and its execution of U.S. hostage Peter Kassig.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
TV anchor wears the same suit for a year. Female colleague wears new outfit daily. Who gets criticized?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1204 GMT (2004 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT