LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Saudi Arabian women will overcome a ban on female drivers and gain the right to drive this year, but only in a mobile videogame designed by a member of the royal family.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, “Saudi Girls Revolution” features Saudi women racing motorcycles. It is being developed for mobile phones by Na3m, whose founder is Prince Fahad bin Faisal Al-Saud, the grandson of the Saudi King Salman’s brother.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive, although a growing number of public figures in the country have publicly pushed for the rule to be overturned.
Although the law does not explicitly ban women from driving, the world’s top oil exporter does not grant licenses to women.
“If we can tell people stories about women driving, maybe it will actually happen,” the prince told the Wall Street Journal.
The game’s heroines are a “badass group of Saudi women” who come together in a government enforced camp and build and race motorcycles to fight the evil, tyrannical rulers of the corrupt, fictional Arabian Empire, according to Na3m.
The female protagonists battle mythical creatures such as baboon kings, crystal giants, fire dancers, mutants and zombie soldiers along the way.
The company with offices in Jordan and Denmark, said it hoped the game would inspire male and female gamers to question gender roles, and encourage more girls to get involved in coding and developing videogames.
“I wanted to engage the Saudi community ... to allow them to be comfortable and familiar and used to these types of visuals,” Prince Fahad told the newspaper.
Dozens of Saudi women have taken to the road in recent years in protest at the ban on female drivers, leading to arrests and prompting a warning from the Interior Ministry in October 2014.
Any such attempt by women to drive in public in breach of the law was “an opportunity for predators to undermine social cohesion”, the ministry said at the time.
In the conservative Islamic kingdom, a U.S. ally, women are legally subject to a male guardian and are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business or undergoing certain medical treatments without his permission.
Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing By Leslie Gevirtz