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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 16:11 GMT
Saudi women take to the skies
Hanadi Hindi
Hanadi Hindi says women now have more opportunies in Saudi Arabia.
As a Saudi woman living in the conservative religious state, Hanadi Hindi will be forbidden from driving to work in her new job.

When she arrives, she will climb into the cabin of a jet aircraft as Saudi Arabia's first female pilot.

Ms Hindi has signed a contract with the private airline of Prince al-Walid bin Talal, a nephew of King Fahd.

The reformist Prince paid for her pilot's studies in Jordan and she is expected to graduate in mid-2005.

"Women are very capable of taking on any job previously monopolised by men", Ms Hindi said in a statement.

Despite this, she admitted that her chosen career would have been impossible without the support of her father.

Ms Hindi believes that Saudi Arabia has changed and that women now have more opportunities.

"Women have more chance to work and to do different kinds of work", she said in an interview with the BBC.

She encouraged other Saudi women to try and achieve their ambitions.

Controversy

Prince Walid described the job offer as "a historic move for Saudi ladies - who were previously confined to working in the health, education and philanthropic sectors".

"I am in full support of Saudi ladies working in all fields," he said in a statement.

The prince is described by Forbes magazine as the fourth richest man in the world.

He was at the centre of a controversy after former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani turned down his $10m donation to the victims of the 11 September attacks.

Giuliani was angered after the prince criticised US foreign policy.

Permission

Women are subject to number of restrictions in Saudi Arabia - an absolute monarchy, governed according to a highly conservative interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.

They are obliged to wear a veil and are not permitted to travel alone or mix with men other than relatives.

Women were not able to obtain separate identity cards until 2001, and even then only with the permission of a male relative.

They do not have the right to vote or run for public office and, until June this year, were forbidden from working in most jobs.




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