Outraged by the Saudi government’s excluding them from participating in municipal elections for the second time, Saudi women activists are determined to further their inclusion by creating a women’s municipal council for them to start casting their votes.
"We will never give up, and we will not stop our campaigning,” said Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi whose is a human rights activist and a history lecturer at King Saud University in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia’s upcoming municipal election on April 24 is the second after its first municipal election in 2005 where women were also excluded.
“We have decided to create municipal councils paralleling the men-only municipal elections,” Dr. al-Fassi added.
Dr. al-Fasi who started a campaign urging the government for women to participate in elections three months ago, said that she and other activist are determined to continue.
“We have not failed in our campaign,” she said, adding “the decision by the elections’ higher committee is a failed decision which tries to marginalize Saudi women’s role and for the second consecutive time.”
Dr. al-Fassi said that there is nothing in the Saudi’s legal system that can disallow women from launching their municipal council or to participate in "real elections".
Head of the electoral committee, Abd al-Rahman al-Dahmash, agreed with Dr. al-Fassi that the Saudi system permits and does not deter Saudi women from participating in municipal election.
Without giving full details, Al-Dahmash blamed ‘shortcomings’ in the Saudi elections’ centers and in the electoral process.
“We cannot deter women's participating in elections and in the whole kingdom," he said.
Al-Dahmash promised women’s participation in municipal elections in the ‘upcoming phase’ when "these shortcomings are remedied by advancing procedures for women to start voting."
"Women's participating in elections should be a reality in the Kingdom in the next stage after fixing some deficiencies.”
(Translated from Arabic by Dina al-Shibeeb)