In Saudi Arabia’s First Election Open to Women, Feminists Have Been Excluded

In Saudi Arabia’s First Election Open to Women, Feminists Have Been Excluded

Hundreds of Saudi women were announced as political candidates on Sunday ahead of the kingdom's municipal elections in December, which mark the first time women have been permitted to run for office as well as cast their votes.

While the historic campaigns should be cause for celebration, a group of women’s rights leaders are holding their applause. Nassima Alsadah, Tamador Alyami, and Loujain al-Hathloul told The Wall Street Journal they were barred from running for office, and Alsadah suspects her feminist activism is to blame. 

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Alsadah said that she and the other disqualified women were involved in campaigning to gain the right to drive in Saudi Arabia—the only country where women are banned from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.      

While the government did not provide a reason for excluding the women, each of the would-be candidates said she planned to appeal the decision. On Sunday, al-Hathloul said on Twitter that she’d be filing her “objection via the appropriate channels.” The activist was detained and imprisoned last year when she defied the ban on female motorists and attempted to drive her car to Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. 

The Dec. 12 election marks the first time women have have been permitted to participate in local politics following a 2011 order by King Abdullah, who passed away in January. While many human rights organizations cheered the decision Human Rights Watch called “long overdue,” some advocates were skeptical about the municipal council’s power to create change in a system where half the candidates are appointed by the government. Not only that, women are still fighting for the right to move freely throughout the country without the supervision of a male guardian. 

While Alsadah and others continue to seek a spot on the ballot, she worries that even if she wins her appeal, the looming election leaves little time to campaign. Without weeks to promote herself, she told the Journal, “Objection is useless.”

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Original article from TakePart