Issues concerning women in Saudi Arabia are raised so frequently that the subject has become like the inevitable flavor of the month. This subject has been broached continuously and even appeared on the cover of the US Time Magazine a few months ago.
On the face of it, there appear to be social, cultural, and economic challenges in the way of women that prevent them from playing their role in society in a correct and fair manner. However, reality indicates that women are the “champions” of the current stage in Saudi Arabia, and that the successive small steps taken in their favor cannot be overlooked, and their impact cannot be played down.
There was a time when mentioning the name of a woman was a major disgrace and something of which to be ashamed, but now the largest university in the history of the country has been named after the sister of the founder of the country. In fact, he was proud of being her brother, and used to say: “I am Nura’s brother.” Moreover, nowadays the state’s higher medal has been awarded to a Saudi woman doctor in medicine, which is a source of pride and cherishment. She is Dr Khaulah al-Kuray from northern Saudi Arabia. Likewise, many Saudi women citizens are now carrying out their duties in a splendid, innovative, and fascinating way.
There is the prominent banker Nahid Tahir, Jeddah Radio Station head Dalal Dia, the successful academics Suhayr al-Qurashi and Haifa Jamal al-Layl, and the Saudi women scholars Ghada al-Mutayri, Ilham Abu Al-Jadayl, and Hayat Sanadi. There are also scores of names of other successful women in the fields of business, medicine, trade, banking, engineering, and education. Women are also being allowed gradually to become lawyers, which is clearly to the credit of the state.
I was present when Hillary Clinton met with the female students of Dar al-Hikma in Jeddah, and I saw her surprise when she noticed the preparedness, confidence, and merit of Saudi female students, as well as their cherishment of their country and leadership. She was also surprised to notice their hope for a better future and for a clear and fundamental role in making the future.
Saudi women will take part in municipal elections and they will be appointed ministers. They will join the Shura Council and take part in sport. All this is on its way. It is a universal law, and, besides, these things are part of the Islamic heritage. Everybody knows this. There is a unique Saudi feature: joint political and social efforts are made to set a middle-of-the-road approach to issues and to ensure that the situation is remedied without extremism and the ignorance that has caused harm and brought no benefit.
The situation of the Saudi women is being promoted with a vision, but there still remain “odd” voices singing out of tune. Today, people are proud of their sisters and daughters, and of their academic achievements, which are a source of pride for them and their country. This, in itself, is an achievement to which one can only respectfully bow, and applaud in appreciation.