Saudi Arabia’s women go all out for the right to vote

In Saudi Arabia, a country in which women can do virtually nothing without the permission of their male guardians and are banned from voting, the last thing electoral officials expected was for a group of women to march in to a voter’s registration centre with the firm intention of signing up on electoral registers. Yet that’s exactly what happened in Riyadh on April 24, and the scene was caught on camera.
A day earlier, immediately after the electoral lists were open to register for the upcoming municipal elections, dozens of equally determined women had tried to pull off the same feat in registration centres in the Saudi cities of Jeddah, Mecca, Khobar and Nairan. The daring attempts were coordinated via Facebook and Twitter, a sign that new technologies may be helping Saudi women tackle century-old patriarchal traditions.
As a result, Saudi authorities were forced to officially reassert that women would not be allowed to vote during the municipal elections, arguing that the electoral commission was “not ready” to collect their votes. On April 28, a Saudi feminist activist  lodged a complaint against the government for having denied women the right sign up onto the electoral register.
The next municipal elections, to be held on September 22, are only the second elections in the history of Saudi Arabia. During the first elections, in 2005, Saudis elected half of the country’s municipal councilors, whilst the other half were chosen by authorities.

In Saudi Arabia, a country whose laws have been inspired by a strict version of Islam, women do not have the right to travel without the permission of a guardian, they cannot drive, and they are considered inferior to men in divorce or inheritance cases.
In this video, a group of women enter one of the registration centres in Riyadh to put their names onto the electoral register. The men politely inform them that it is not possible. The women retort that this voting ban is not lawful.

A man in the office said to us, "It’s great that you came."

Nuha was one of the women who went to the registration office in Riyad to demand that her name be put on the electoral register. An active online promoter of Saudi women's rights, she is the creator the Facebook group "Saudi Women Revolution".
We organised this initiative using Twitter and Facebook. We all expected the officers to refuse, but the reactions were different in different towns. In Khobar, two women were so insistent that they successfully convinced the men to let them write their names down on the register even if, of course, several days later the registration centre informed them that their registration had no value whatsoever. In contrast, in another registration centre, the group of women was broken up by the police and two women spent several hours at the police station.
"The problem is not a lack of preparation; the authorities have had six years to organize these elections"
It is ridiculous that the authorities pretend that they are not ready. During the 2005 elections, they promised us that we would be able to vote in the next elections. The problem is clearly not a lack of preparation; the authorities have had six years to organize these elections. According to officials, it is complicated to arrange elections in a country where men and women are not supposed to mix with each other. This is an absurd argument as elections take place in schools, buildings which already separate boys from girls. 
When we were at the centre, we insisted on the fact that there is no law which states that we cannot vote [Saudi electoral law grants “all citizens” the right to vote, ed.]. It is exactly the same case for the driving ban. These bans have become the norm but when you ask which law prevents you from doing this or that, we always get the same response: “We’ll discuss it later”.
"We’re not even asking for total equality between the sexes" 
Today we are hoping to obtain basic rights which will mean that we are no longer treated like children. For the moment, we are not asking for total equality between the sexes. All we want is the right to vote, the right to move around freely, and the end of the masculine guardian system (a system which places women, from birth, under the legal authority of a man).
At the end of the 1950s, King Faycal decided to set up schools for girls, even though a lot of people were against it. He did it because he knew that it was the right thing to do. One can’t imagine such a gesture happening today. It’s a shame because the county is ready for change. My husband and the men in my family all support me. Even the man that you can see in the video was friendly. He was certainly surprised but he finished by saying: “It’s great that you came. We don’t understand why the government doesn’t move forward.”
Post written in collaboration with Ségolène Malterre, journalist at FRANCE 24.


Reply to comment | The FRANCE 24 Observers

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Reply to comment | The Observers

It's fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this article as well as from our argument made at this place.

Was GOD created by Man to enforce his will upon women

Was GOD created by Man to enforce his sexual gratification upon women and inform Mans belief, and even secular text, women are worth less and therefore fair game?

I came to this conclusion Yes on seeing a recent photo of some 15 Muslim women in Saudi Arabia demonstrating in the streets for Freedom covered from head to toe without even being able to discern the place were their eyes should be.

The nature of how these chains were applied via the generation of Religious text justifying women’s subjugation to Man is clearly revealed in Mohammad’s opportune Revelations, after the fact, to justify his actions regards women.

Anyone today reflecting on a Male today suddenly having so called Revelations from a God to justify such behavior would be rightly given short shrift and a white coat. But Mohammed was only building on a tradition based on an ancient text which had centuries before jettisoned the inconvenient notion God had a female partner. One can only imagine the fundamental change this meant to the nature of God was informed in the same manner of Mohammad’s timely fortuitous and self-serving Revelations.

It is not new Religious or Secular leaders taking advantage of their positions of power.

“THE HEAD of Canberra’s Tibetan Buddhist community has apologized to members of the society after allegations he had sexual relations with several women from the group.. Lama Choedak told the group that rather than being angry, they should use the experience to improve themselves.” Canberra Times 1-5-2011

Errr.. ‘use the experience to improve themselves’ – Am I really so far from the truth of the matter?

Who could blame Man, from such positions of power, regards such sacred unchallengeable Revelations, other than an ethically inclined person informed by twenty first century women’s rights, to make such notions permanent for their own convenience? Which clearly Man has otherwise would the following examples and millions of examples like them occur?

Just two of the many Mohammed examples, which inform the terrible circumstance of women in the Quran relative to men, of how Men down the ages have turned lies into fact because of so called Revelations from a supreme invisible unchallengeable being:

“Since Muslims were limited to four wives and Mohammed had 11, it took a divine message to explain the difference. The Revelation was received when Mohammed had nine wives, not counting the slave-girls.” Informing Mohammed “We (God) have made lawful to you the wives …slave-girls … other women who gave themselves to you… This privilege is yours alone, being granted to no other believer.”

“Mohammed had promised Hafsa, one of his wives that he would no longer sleep with a Coptic slave, but he was (who couldn’t tell this would happen) subsequently discovered with her.” Mohammed then heard the following message “Prophet why do you prohibit that which Allah has made lawful to you, in seeking to please your wives. Allah is forgiving and merciful. Allah has given you absolution from such oaths.”

Etc.. “The Popular Encyclopedia of World Religions”, Richard Wolff , 2007

Yes it all true-yet a significant number of women persist in the belief these types of Revelations are actually truly from a God and not from what are in fact Misogynistic, Lying, unfaithful, twofaced-Men.

CNN, April 5, 2011 “The attempt to discredit al-Obeidy as a promiscuous, un-Islamic woman ties into the idea of sexual shaming in a conservative Muslim society where it’s commonly believed that a woman who has been raped has lost her honor, said Mona Eltahawy, a columnist on Arab and Muslim issues.”

NYT, April 4,2011 Bangladesh: Islamist Strike Shuts Cities:, “Schools and businesses were shut in the main cities on Monday as a hard-line Islamist group enforced a general strike demanding the adoption of Islamic law and the scrapping of a new government policy that gives women equal rights to inheritance.”

Al Jazeera 21 Apr 2011 20:09: Pakistani court upholds gang-rape acquittals “All but one of six suspects freed in case of Mukhtaran Mai, who was gang-raped in the name of “honour”, Five men accused of gang-raping a Pakistani woman in 2002 under orders from a village council have been acquitted by the supreme court of the country, their lawyer says. Following the judgement, Mai said she had “lost faith” in the legal system, and she was now worried that the acquitted men would harm her.

Farzana Bari of Centre for Gender Studies at Qaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad, told Al Jazeera: “The kind of lacunae we have in our criminal justice system, it is not geared to provide justice to women who are especially victims of sexual violence.”

“In Islam, wives are supposed to stop everything to fulfill their husband’s demands.” Malaysian MP tells parliament April 8, 2011 SMH. The article made it plain the MP was in major part talking about sex.

Etc.. –You know many more examples.

What better way than having women believe a supreme power and not something as unimpressive or unconvincing as Man demands women be subject to Mans wants.

God clearly was and is a trick.

Not being able to rationally convince women they should be subject to Mans whim some misogynistic male bright spark happened across frightening women with the unknown as a way of getting what he wanted – God.

What better foil – It’s not me a mere male it is God the Supreme Authority who has given me authority over you – dare you disobey God the Almighty? – apart from me smiting you down wait until Gods finished with you.

Probably invented on Aprils fools day 10,000 BL (Before Logic)

We really have to rewrite religious text and the secular based on it to get rid of this very bad joke once and for all.

So all this time you thought as I had there was some noble rather than utilitarian point to GOD – turns out sadly GOD is simply another deceitful advertising gimmick to sucker in the venerable.

Also please note there appears to be a direct correlation between the level of subjugation of women in a religion and the amount of fear and terror required to maintain it. In other words the greater the relative independence of women in any societal construct the greater the reduction in violence projected internally and externally to maintain the societal structure. i.e. Increased women’s rights = Increased security and peaceful coexistence for all.

(I have also come to the conclusion there is a proportional inverse relationship between violence and fear generated externally and internally with the believability of a text utilized as a Societal template to create it and subsequently maintain it – but that is another story.)

God was created by Man to be the unchallengeable authority in confirming Mans view at a particular point in time regards relationships both with the environment and more importantly each other. Clearly Man needs to revise a despicable error not only in text but in the thoughts and actions it informs – God /Man has no authority to deem women as less and treat women so despicably.

Change the Text or Change Nothing.