September 15, 2004

AL QAEDA'S WINNING?:

A woman runs for office in Saudi Arabia: In the first elections in 40 years, one woman jumps in. But can women even vote? (Faiza Saleh Ambah, 9/16/04, CS Monitor)

Ms. Bakhurji's candidacy is part of a campaign by women who make up Saudi Arabia's embryonic suffrage movement. The elections next spring, for half the seats in 178 municipal councils, are part of the government's efforts to introduce political reforms in the kingdom, an absolute monarchy ruled by the Al Saud family. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Saudi Arabia has been under intense pressure from the United States to democratize, to provide a nonviolent outlet for political dissent.

During the past year, pressure for reform has increased from within, after a series of car bombings and shootouts with al-Qaeda-linked militants trying to drive foreigners out of the country.

As part of its reform efforts, the Saudi government in recent months has allowed women to participate in a series of forums, set up by Crown Prince Abdullah, to discuss challenges facing the country. Women have also recently been appointed to the executive committees of several government-controlled entities, including the Journalists' Syndicate and the National Human Rights Commission. In June, the Council of Ministers, the highest decision-making body, issued a plan to create jobs for women, including the setting up of women-only factories.

Many Saudi women consider these major steps in a country where women are not allowed to drive, travel without permission from a male guardian, appear in public without being covered, nor work alongside men.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 15, 2004 6:49 PM
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