Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The Mother of all Surprises in Saudi Arabia | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Saudi women outside polling station

It was a surprise and what a surprise it was! In the first municipal council elections which women were able to vote in and stand as candidates, 20 women achieved a remarkable triumph. There is no doubt that this is the mother of all surprises. Who would believe that this is the society that is called patriarchal and confiscates the rights of women yet promptly delivers those rights and favours female candidates over male ones from its very first experience?

It is true that this is not the first experience that Saudi women have had of elections as the chamber of commerce elections preceded these ones. However, the chamber of commerce elections cannot be given the same importance as municipal council elections considering that the former is limited to a specific group; business women, whilst the latter is available to all. Despite the fact that all expectations and wishes held by Saudi society, including its male members and its female ones, have not been achieved, the train of female participation is well on its way and no one is able to stop it- even those who want to stop women from practicing their rights.

When we say that it is the mother of all surprises, we remember the first experience that Kuwaiti women had of municipal council elections in 2006 which was the first experience that Kuwaiti women had of standing as candidates. Not a single woman was elected during this election and all the seats were taken by men despite Kuwaiti society being seen as more open and liberal compared to its Saudi counterpart.

The Saudi elections are a landmark and will be recorded in history. Saudi voters have smashed a taboo which is based on a movement that tries to implant the incorrect idea that any participation of women is fundamentally contrary to the instructions of Islamic law. The participation of women in the Consultative Assembly in accordance with Islamic law refutes this idea. Indeed, the participation and presence of women in the Consultative Assembly does not violate this law.