Munich: Yesterday, the foreign minister (FM) of Saudi Arabia defended his country’s treatment of women, saying it had made progress on female education but would take time to let them drive cars. Adel al-Jubeir told an audience at the Munich Security Conference, “When it comes to issues like women’s driving, this is not a religious issue, it’s a societal issue”.
He said it was unfair to fixate on the issue of women drivers, given the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom’s efforts to educate girls. FM said, “We went from no schools for women in 1960 to universal education, to where today 55 percent of college students are women”. He added, “Some of our top doctors and engineers and lawyers and business people are women. The issue is one that is evolving just like it is in other countries.”
He compared Saudi Arabia to the United States (US), arguing that it took 100 years after America’s independence before women were given the right to vote, and another 100 years for it to elect its first female parliamentary speaker. “I’m not saying ‘Give us 200 years’. I’m saying ‘be patient’,” said Jubeir. “We hope that in the modern world with technology and communications that this process is accelerated, but things take time. We can’t expect to rush things.” For the first time in December women were allowed to stand for election to local councils.