King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia issued Friday a historic decree allowing women to be members of the kingdom’s previously all-male Shura Council for the first time.
The decree amended two article in the council’s statute introducing a 20 percent quota for women in the country’s 150-member Shura Council, and the king appointed 30 women to join the consultative assembly.
The assembly, whose members are appointed by the king, works as the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia. It can propose draft laws following which it would present them to the king, who, in turn, would either pass or reject them.
Saudi Arabia is known for its conservative culture where women are not allowed to drive despite the absence of a law saying so.
King Abdullah has introduced cautious economic and social reforms aimed at reconciling Saudi Arabia’s religious traditions with the needs of a modern economy and youthful population.
The decrees were welcomed by female Saudi novelist Badriya al-Bishr in a statement to AFP as a “promise kept” by the king, who has been treading carefully over the years to empower women in his push for reforms.
Thuraya al-Arrayed, an education specialist, who was appointed by the king as a Shura Council member told Al Arabiya that the royal decree “gave confidence to women to take part in important decision-making matters in the country.”
“It is an opportunity given to us, and I expect this experience to succeed. They are all qualified women,” she said.
“We are not here to represent ourselves but to represent the public, women and men alike.”
“I expect this decision to open doors for qualified women to take part in all fields and not just in politics but in all areas,” al-Arrayed said.
Also among the Shura council female members is Thuraya Obaid, a veteran U.N. administrator who served notably as executive director of the U.N. Development Program and undersecretary general of the world body.
“They are the cream of the crop,” Bishr told AFP.
“It is a good surprise and a promise that has been kept,” by the king, she said.
“The king is determined to place women in the limelight,” Bishr added, and voiced hope that her Saudi sisters “will secure more rights” in the future.
But the decrees stipulated strict guidelines for allowing women into the once all-male enclave, saying men and women will be segregated inside the council.
Women will be seated in a special area and enter the council through a separate door so as not to mix with their male colleagues.
Bellow is translation of the two amendments made to the Saudi Shura Council statute:
First amendment: Article 3
The Shura Council constitutes of 150 members, chosen by the king among scholars, experts and specialists, with women representation being no less than 20 percent of the number of members. The rights of members and their obligations and all their affairs are defined by a royal decree.
Second amendment -- Article 22
First, each committee of the specialized committees constitutes a number of members defined by the council but should not be less than five. The council chooses these members and names the head of the committee and his deputy, taking into consideration the committees' needs, the specialization of the member and the women participation in the committees.
Second, the council can form among its members special committees to study a particular subject, and each committee has the right to form among its members one or more branch committees to study a particular subject.
Third, the woman enjoys in her membership at the Shura Council complete membership rights and abides by the obligations and responsibilities as well as assumes tasks.
Fourth, in confirmation of what was stated in the preamble of this decree of ours, the woman member commits to the principles of Islamic Shariah without any breach whatsoever and wears a proper hijab (veil), taking into account the following:
1: Reserving a place for the woman to sit, as well as her own gate for entry and exit in the main Council Chamber, and everything related to her affairs to ensure independence from men.
2: Reserving places for women, fully independent from places reserved for men, to include offices for them and for employees with required equipment and services, and space for prayer.
Fifth: This decree of ours is to be delivered to specialized parties for adoption and implementation.
List of women appointed to the Shura Council
1. Her Royal Highness Princess/ Sarrah bint Faisal bin Abdulaziz
2. Dr./ Amal bint Salamah bin Sulaiman Al-Shaman
3. Dr. / Thuraya bint Ahmed bin Obeid bin Mohammed Obeid
4. Dr. / Thuraya bint Ibrahim bin Hussein al-Arrayed
5. Dr. / Al-Jawharah bint Ibrahim bin Mohammed Bu-Besht
6. Dr./ Hamdah bint Khalaf bin Miqbel Al-Enzy
7. Dr./ Hanan bint Abdulraheem bin Mutlaq Al-Ahmadi
8. Dr./ Hayat bint Sulaiman bin Hasan Sindi
9. Dr. / Dalal bint Mekhled bin Jahez Al-Harbi
10. Dr./ Zainet bint Muthanna bin Abduou Abu-Taleb
11. Dr. / Elham bint Mahjoub bin Ahmed Hasanain
12. Dr./ Salwa bint Abdullah bin Fahad Al-Hazaa
13. Dr. / Fatima bint Mohammed bin Mohsen Al Saeed Al-Qarni
14. Dr. / Fadwa bint Salamah bin Odeh Abu Marifah
15. Dr. / Fardous bint Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saleh
16. Dr. / Khawla Bint Sami Alkrie
17. Dr. / Lubna bint Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al-Tayeb
18. Dr. / Latifa bint Othman bin Ibrahim Al-Shaalan
19. Dr. / Mastourah bint Obaid bin Lafi Al-Husseini Al-Shammari
20. Dr. / Muna bint Abdullah bin Saeed Al Mushayt
21. Dr. / Muna bint Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Dosari
22. Her Royal Highness Princess / Moudi bint Khalid bin Abdulaziz
23. Dr. / Moudi bint Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Dugaither
24. Dr. / Nihad bint Mohammed Saeed bin Ahmed Al-Jeshi
25. Dr. / Nora bint Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Mubarak
26. Dr. / Nora bint Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al-Asqah
27. Dr. / Nora bint Abdullah bin Abdulrahman Al-Adwan
28. Mr. / Huda bint Abdulrahman bin Saleh Al-Halisi
29. Dr. / Hia bint Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al-Manea
30. Dr. / Wafa bint Mahmoud bin Abdullah Taibah