"We are working on the initiative, which will soon come into effect that will outline the regulations ensuring equal pay for men and women alike," said the Crown Prince on CBS’ "60 Minutes" a day before his two and a half week tour of the US. He went on to say that the move would send women’s employment rate, which currently stands at 22 percent, upwards. He also noted that Saudi women "still have not received their full rights. There are rights stipulated in Islam that they still don’t have. We have come a very long way and have a short way to go," he concluded.
He blamed the country’s extreme conservatism and the array of social issues centering around gender inequality on the 1979 events in neighboring Iran, which saw the toppling of the 2,500-year-old monarchy and the birth of an Islamic republic. He said that before 1979, Saudis "led very normal life," with women driving cars and citizens being able to visit movie theatres across the country.
"We have extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a work place. Many of those ideas contradict the way of life during the time of the Prophet (pbuh)," he said.
"We are all human beings and there is no difference," he added.
The reform-focused crown prince went on to say that there was no need for women to wear headscarves or the traditional loose, black abaya, as long as their outfit is "decent and respectful."
Separately, Salman rounded off on the pervasive anti-corruption campaign that he initiated in November 2017. The move, in which 11 princes and four government ministers were detained, allowed for the return of a whopping 100 billion dollars to the state budget. "The idea was not merely to obtain money, but rather send a signal to anyone involved in corruption that they would be held responsible in accordance with law."
Salman also elaborated on the Iranian issue, labelling the Islamic country’s role in the region as "harmful." Though acknowledging that Iran could by no means rival the kingdom in terms of military and economy, he mentioned that should it seriously embark on a nuclear program, the Saudis would promptly follow suit.
On top of that, he drew parallels between Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hitler, adding he is "the new" Hitler in the Middle East, similarly interested in expansion. Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realize how dangerous Hitler was until war broke out. "I don’t want to see the same events happening in the Middle East."
The crown prince and his ruling father have launched a range of sweeping reforms in the kingdom over the past couple of years: one of them famously granted women the right to drive back in September 2017, following a number of protests defying a longstanding policy of women's segregation.
Most recently, Saudi Arabia made headlines as it hosted its first ever female marathon, in which around 1,500 women donning traditional Islamic dress partook. The authorities announced he Saudi social sector would see a whopping $64 billion investment injection in the coming years.
Separately, Sputnik has previously written about a 41 year-old female boxer, Halah al Hamrani, who stood up for Saudi women in the sport sector. She has started a business called Flagboxing, which is virtually the first women-only combat studio in the kingdom.