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Saudi women get right to vote, but can't drive yet

ABDULLAH AL-SHIHRI and HAMZA HENDAWI AP 09/26/2011 22:01
Saudi women get right to vote, but can't drive yet - King Abdullah - Middle East - politics - women's rights - Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, considered a reformer by the standards of his own ultraconservative kingdom, decreed on Sunday that women will for the first time have the right to vote and run in local elections due in 2015.



It is a "Saudi Spring" of sorts.

For the nation's women, it is a giant leap forward, though they remain unable to serve as Cabinet ministers, drive or travel abroad without permission from a male guardian.

Saudi women bear the brunt of their nation's deeply conservative values, often finding themselves the target of the unwanted attention of the kingdom's intrusive religious police, who enforce a rigid interpretation of Islamic Shariah law on the streets and public places like shopping malls and university campuses.

In itself, Sunday's decision to give the women the right to vote and run in municipal elections may not be enough to satisfy the growing ambition of the kingdom's women who, after years of lavish state spending on education and vocational training, significantly improved their standing but could not secure the same place in society as that of their male compatriots.

That women must wait four more years to exercise their newly acquired right to vote adds insult to injury since Sunday's announcement was already a long time coming - and the next local elections are in fact scheduled for this Thursday.


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