At least 13 Saudi women were elected to the first elections open to women in this ultraconservative kingdom where they remain subject to many restrictions, according to results reported Sunday.
“Even if there had been that we would have been proud. Frankly, we expected no victory “, welcomed Sahar Hassan Nassif, feminist activist from the Jeddah region (west).
These candidates were elected Saturday at Municipal considered historic because Saudi Arabia was the last country to deny its citizens the right to vote or be a candidate in an election.
But with 2106 seats in 284 municipal councils, assemblies with limited powers which are the only in the kingdom to include elected officials, these 13 women represent less than 1% of those elected.
“We need more” of women, said al-Aljazi Hossaini, which was defeated at Diriyah, a town on the outskirts of Riyadh, according to Al-Ekhbaria chain. She hoped that women are chosen from the people shall designate the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to provide one third of the seats.
The first woman whose victory was announced Madrakah was elected to the City Council, in the region of Mecca, one of the most important holy places of Islam. Salma bint al-Oteibi Hizab triumphed face seven men and two women.
Another, bent Hanouf Moufreh Ben Ayed al-Hazmi, was elected in the Jawf region (northwest) and Sanna Abdellatif Hamam and Abdelmohsen Maasouma al-Rida were in the region of Ihsaa (southeast) while the capital Riyadh saw the election of three women, according to the official news agency SPA. Moreover, two candidates won seats in the province of Tabbouk (northwest).
“Wear women’s voices”
Khadra al-Mubarak, from the coastal town of Qatif, confirmed to AFP that she was among the women elected. “I will be in contact with society, particularly women, to raise their voices and transmit their requests to the Council. I promise to represent them by all means. ”
Three women were elected in the south of the country also, one in the area and two others whose Jazane Lama al-Suleiman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, according to SPA.
Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy governed by a rigorous version of Islam, is one of the most restrictive countries in the world for women: they do not have the right to drive and must seek the approval of a man – a guardian – for work or travel.
To vote Saturday, many women have had no choice but to be taken by car by a driver or a male family member. Gender segregation was also appropriate in the polls.
Among the 6440 candidates were more than 900 women who had to overcome many obstacles to participate in these elections. For example, they have never met the male voters face to face.
Much of the campaign took place on social networks, Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the world where there are the largest number of users in relation to the population.
On election day, some women have posted their pictures with unveiled face, while in the streets, they were, overwhelmingly, veiled and dressed in the traditional black abaya covering their bodies from head to toe.
They “will surprise you”
According to official figures, nearly 1.5 million people aged 18 and over were registered to vote, including about 119,000 women.
Women’s participation reached 80% in some parts of the country, well beyond the rate among men, according to conclusions based on official figures.
Women voters, heartfelt and sometimes in tears, stressed that they were happy to have finally been able to do a thing until they saw only on TV.
Nassima al-Sadah, feminist of the city of Qatif (east), welcomed in a tweet “a victory for everyone.” “I told you for months: women will surprise you! “.
King Abdullah, predecessor of the current sovereign Salman, had initiated an opening in 2011 giving Saudi women the right to vote and stand.
Before Saturday’s elections, Human Rights Watch welcomed the vote, while stressing that “Saudi Arabia continues to discriminate against women through a myriad of laws, policies and practices.”