Saudi women win right to vote
Change may be to avert the spread of wider revolution.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, of Saudi Arabia has announced that women shall now have the right to vote and even stand in elections. This is a surprising development in one of the world's most conservative Islamic countries.
Saudi Arabian women will soon get to vote, but they still won't be able to drive or travel without a male chaperone.
In his announcement, the king said, "Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulama and others... to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from the next term...Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote."
Very little will change in the near-term however. Women will not yet be allowed to vote in the next round of elections which will take place next week. Women will only be allowed to vote starting in 2015. Women will be allowed to vote for and stand for office in municipal elections.
Women's rights have become a sensitive issue in a sexually-segregated country where women are not allowed to drive, or do anything in public without a male chaperone. Women cannot get passports or even leave the country without permission from a male relative.
If the decision was designed to pacify Saudi activists, it may prove counter-productive. Many liberal activists see the decision as a hard-fought victory and are now saying that they are further inspired to maintain pressure on the government.
Last June, women challenged the unofficial, but well-enforced bad on driving by turning out on the streets of the capitol in cars. Their efforts drew a lot of attention, but the government, nor the state's religious authorities made no move to change anything, leaving women at danger of arrest for being caught driving.
Washington, one of Saudi Arabia's closest ally has been encouraging Saudi Arabia to consider some reforms in the strategically vital state, likely out of fear that the Arab Spring revolutions could eventually spread and upset the delicate political balance of the middle-east, as well as reliable access to one of the most important supplies of oil in the world.
Previously, the Saudi government reacted to the Arab Spring movement by banning demonstrations, promising reforms, and announcing nearly $130 billion in annual spending on social programs.
The White House has been quick to praise the change. In a statement, White House officials said, "The announcements made today represent an important step forward in expanding the rights of women in Saudi Arabia. We support King Abdullah and the people of Saudi Arabia as they undertake these and other reforms."
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, women, voting
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