Saudi Women Granted Right to Vote (...In 2015, But Still)
Women in Saudi Arabia are not legally allowed to drive, but this week King Abdullah made an important step towards gender equality: he granted them the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections. The reason for his decision, one the New York Times calls the biggest in a decade? Pressure from Saudi women combined with the spur of change brought by Arab Spring.
But while it's an exciting victory, the logistical elements—including King Abdullah's enactment date of 2015—prompt caution. Times:
Although political activists celebrated the change, they also cautioned how deep it would go and how fast, given that the king referred to the next election cycle, which would not be until 2015. Some women wondered aloud how they would be able to campaign for office when they were not even allowed to drive. And there is a long history of royal decrees stalling, as weak enactment collides with the bulwark of traditions ordained by the Wahhabi sect of Islam and its fierce resistance to change.
Still, it's an in. Maha al-Qahtani, a Saudi woman who drove a car earlier this year, told the Times, “It is a good sign, and we have to take advantage of it. But we still need more rights.” And as a little leeway comes, women are inspired to press for more. “The Arab spring means that things are changing, that the political power has to listen to the people," Fawaziah Bakr, a professor, told the Times. The spring gave us a clear voice.” Read the full piece here.