Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that there’s not exactly a stampede of women signing up to vote in the upcoming municipal elections in Saudi Arabia…
Female voter registration centers in the governorates of Farasan Island, Al-Darb and Dhamad in Jazan region registered only 16 voters for municipal council elections. Shaha Muhammad Asiri, chairperson of the women’s election circuit in Al-Darb, said only five female voters registered during the past days due to difficult conditions and lack of awareness on elections among women. In Farasan Island, female voters registration center registered six voters and Dhamad governorate registered four female voters. — Muhammad Al-Kadawmi/Okaz/Saudi Gazette
A piece in Arab News on the topic points out that women are having a hard time even getting to voter registration locations.
Politically emancipated Saudi women are socially constrained
Molouk Y. Ba-Isa
Municipal elections will be held throughout Saudi Arabia on Dec. 12. In a historic first, Saudi women have been invited to participate as voters and candidates. This Arab News journalist went to register as a voter and discovered that for many Saudi women, making it to the polls won’t be easy.
The first voter registration center visited was No. 1061, located in a girls’ school on the outskirts of the Thuqbah District, Alkhobar. With the registration timing from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., a police car was parked at the door to the registration center, its vehicle lights on to illuminate the entrance. Inside the school there was an enthusiastic greeting from the center’s registration manager, Abeer Al Owirdi, and her team of three women.
After many years’ delay, Saudi women are finally able to vote. Their political franchise was promised years ago, then delayed because Saudi custom required an elaborate piece of theater to ensure that unrelated members of the opposite sex didn’t meet at the polling stations. But now, Saudi Gazette reports, women are finally registering to vote in the municipal elections to be held later this year.
KSA sees first female voter registrations
Saudi Gazette report
MADINAH — They don’t know each other, and are separated by about 450km, but Jamal Al-Saadi and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat became the first two women to register as voters for the upcoming third municipal elections in Madinah and Makkah respectively.
“The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us,” Saadi said. “The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making.”
Voter registration began in the Two Holy Cities on Sunday, a week earlier than the rest of the Kingdom. Both women said they had thoroughly prepared all the documents they would need so that nothing would stop them from participating in elections for the first time.
“I was quite ready for this day,” Saadi said. “I have prepared all the documents needed to obtain a voter’s card. This is a nice experience to go through. We are just at the beginning of the road.”
Saudi media reports on how social media is pointing fingers at the bad behavior of Saudi tourists in Europe. This Saudi Gazette story notes that self-criticism has been unleashed, with harsh criticism extended toward those who seem to ignore the simplest social niceties while abroad.
Saudi tourists’ behavior stirs social media storm
Saleh Fareed | Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Tourists from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are the target of harsh criticisms on social media after photographs showing them cooking, littering and smoking shisha in public parks in countries they were visiting were posted online.
Social media users in Saudi Arabia have also posted videos and pictures online of Saudis acting strangely abroad.
Last week, there was outrage in the Saudi online community, after a number of local journalists sparked a heated debate about how Saudi tourists are perceived abroad.
The consensus among those online appeared to be that tourists need to respect the local customs and regulations.
Fahad Al-Harbi said: “Our people have done it wrong, I am very sorry and ashamed … we should admit that some of our tourists have crossed the line.”
Meanwhile, Al Arabiya TV reports, people are also keeping track of the behavior of Saudi women with the audacity to attend a Saudi soccer match in London. Saudi women are not permitted to attend matches in the Kingdom.
Since at least the days of ancient Rome, the question Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? — who guards (against) the guardians? — has been a tough one to answer.
According to a story in Saudi Gazette, the question hasn’t yet received an adequate answer in Saudi Arabia. The article reports that over the past nine months, over 600 court cases have been filed by Saudi women against their guardians. These cases dealt only with adl, preventing the women from marrying for various illegitimate reasons. I wonder what the number would be if all cases of abuse by guardians were counted?
627 lawsuits against male guardians
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — As many as 627 Saudi women in various regions of the Kingdom have filed lawsuits against their male guardians accusing them of preventing them from getting married.
The lawsuits were filed between the end of October 2014 and mid July this year, according to local newspapers.
The women are requesting the courts transfer their guardianship to other males in the family, including uncles or brothers.
Makkah saw the highest number of lawsuits, with 229 over the period, while Riyadh had the second highest number at 154 cases.
Preventing a female relative from getting married — a practice known as Adl — is prohibited by Islam, but some male guardians still do so, alleging tribal incompatibility, or out of a desire to keep the woman’s salary, inheritance and properties for themselves.
Saudi Gazette reports on Hatun Madani, a Saudi woman making a splash in the UAE with her Saudi-inspired restaurant. While she would have had a hard time — if not an impossible one — opening her own restaurant in the Kingdom, she was able to do so in the neighboring UAE. It’s a demonstration that Saudi women aren’t incapable, but they are handicapped by their society that refuses to see them as adult actors, competent to lead their own lives.
THE past few years have seen the coming in numerous eating joints. Since 2012, the restaurants and hotels sector has been one of the highest growing sector in Dubai’s economy. About 19,000 more F&B outlets are expected in the UAE by 2019, according to Euromonitor International, which reported that there are currently over 6000 outlets in the Emirates. Many of these new food establishments come and go, some are still talked about while some are forgotten. But there are a few that strike the right chord with the food lovers. One such new restaurant is Hatun Cuisine, and it looks like it‘s here to stay.
Opened on June 4, 2015 by master chef Hatun Madani, the brand ambassador of Mazola, Hatun Cuisine serves authentic Saudi inspired home-cooked food that is healthy and delicious. After 2 of her children were diagnosed with diabetes at an early stage, Hatun was inspired to switch to healthy cooking, but without compromising on the taste. And now she has extended this vision to her menu at the restaurant. “Flavor is always top priority when eating out, for casual diners and food enthusiasts alike. While many think it is only achievable by compromising on the health quotient, I beg to differ,” said Hatun Madni, the mastermind behind Hatun Cuisine. “My food is healthy and delicious, while being true to its authentic Hijazi roots,” she added.
Working within the limits Saudi society puts on them, some Saudi women are finding ways to couple their home skills with social media in order to turn a profit. Saudi Gazette reports that women are turning to various social media like Instagram and Twitter to market their home cooking to customers to busy to cook for themselves. While there seems to be considerable room to grow the industry, there is some concern that some hygienic standards be set and enforced. That seems reasonable.
Saudi women use social media to market cooking skills
Saudi Gazette report
MANY Saudi women use the popular micro-blogging site Twitter and photo-sharing site Instagram as an easy and inexpensive way to market their homemade dishes to potential clients.
These social media “cooks” have discovered a way to give people access to healthier, homemade food at a fraction of the cost they would pay in a restaurant.
Al-Riyadh daily reports on the increasing number of home-based businesses that rely on social media to market their products.
Although the food is prepared at home and customers do not know whether or not hygiene standards were followed, many people are still willing to take the risk and buy the food they just liked on Instagram.
While there’s talk of permitting Saudi women to travel abroad without “guardians,” there are more basic hurdles that need to be met. Saudi women have to first get passports. That’s not always easy.
Saudi Gazette reports on a Saudi female activist pointing out the dysfunction that obtains when a Saudi woman must obtain permission from a court to even get a passport where her son doesn’t face the same barrier. She notes (as have many others) the way Saudi culture and law seem to keep women infantalized, never permitting them to become responsible for their own actions. This, she also points out, is in contrast to how other countries, even similar, neighboring countries treat their women.
Activist slams court letter rule for women’s passport
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — A human rights activist has strongly criticized the complications put before Saudi women to obtain their own passports without the consent of their male guardians.
Suhaila Zain Al-Abdeen, member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), was responding to recent statements by the Director General of Passports (Jawazat) Maj. Gen. Solaiman Al-Yahya, who said Saudi women would be allowed to have their own passports issued for them if they show a letter from a court.
“Why does the issuance of a woman’s passports depend on a letter from the court?” Al-Abdeen told Ain Al-Yaum electronic newspaper, Saudi Gazette’s sister publication.
She said a letter from the court might take time to process even though the traveler might have a family emergency to tend to.
“Why is a young man under 20 not asked for the consent of his male guardian or to bring a letter from the court when he wants to obtain a passport while his own biological mother may need a letter from the court if she wishes to have a passport? “Is it a case of trusting the young man while we deny this right to the woman who gave birth to him?”
Saudi women in the Eastern Province seem eager to exercise their new political potential, Saudi Gazette reports. Over 80 women have put themselves forward as candidates for the Dammam municipal elections to be held in December of this year. These elections are the first in which women may vote and run as candidates.
80 women to run for EP city council
Saudi Gazette report
DAMMAM — There are over 80 women running for the Eastern Province city council elections in August with at least 10 female candidates contesting places on each municipal committee, a social activist told Al-Hayat.
Fowziyah Al-Hani of the “Baladi” campaign, which works to increase women’s representation in the city council, said female participation in the Shoura Council has improved Saudi society.
She believed more women in the city council would help societal development as well. She said: “I believe the Saudi woman will be a complementary addition to the city councils in the Kingdom.
“A lot of women are apprehensive about nominating themselves. They fear their agendas and plans would be stolen by other candidates if they were publicized.”
She added women candidates would always be under the spotlight in the election and their private lives exposed. “It is financially and emotionally exhausting to campaign and challenge social norms.
While it’s far from a done deal, Arab News reports, Saudi Arabia’s Passport Department, in consultation with various ministries, is considering the idea of issuing women passports without the explicit permission of their parents or guardians. Already, the government has permitted women to travel within the country without written permission, so this would be an expansion of women’s rights and a bit less control, treating women as adults in the way most of the world does.
JEDDAH: The Passport Department is currently drafting regulations that would see women travel without the permission of their guardians.
Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yahya, director general of the department in Riyadh, said the rules would be based on the reasons for travel, not age. The procedures to allow women to travel without permission include the interior, justice and social affairs ministries, and other bodies, he said.
He added that the passport department complies with court decisions that allow women to travel abroad, or get passports issued and renewed without the approval of their parents or guardians. These were in line with laws in “advanced countries,” he said.
Arab News reports that seven Saudi students have won eight medals at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The competition is among high school students. Saudi success is a good sign that long-needed changes in education are starting to take effect, at least at some schools. It is noteworthy, too, to point out the success of female students.
Saudi students win 8 medals at world event
ABDUL HANNAN TAGO
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia achieved yet another accolade in scientific research at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF-2015) in Pittsburgh, US.
As many as 1,700 students from 75 countries around the world took part in the event. The KSA team won eight awards in various research areas. Abdul Jabbar Al-Hamoud from the Eastern Province won the first place in the field of botany, while two girl students — Rafal Bouqis and Ranad Bouqis — from the Makkah region won the fourth place in molecular and cellular biology.
Abdul Aziz Al Shahrani of Asir education also stood fourth in the field of medical science, while Lulua Ziyad Al-Shiha from Riyadh won the fourth place in botany.
Another Saudi, Noura Alfdag from Eastern Province secured the fourth slot in mathematics.
A special award was given to Maria Al-Kurdi from Riyadh in chemistry. Al-Hamoud was also adjudged best among the top five winners in botany, and also won a special award qualifying him to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden.
A complete list of award winners and the titles of their projects can be found at the link below. Talk about making one feel like a slacker!
Saudi Arabia will conduct its next municipal elections on December 12, Arab News reports. The Municipal Election Committee has also established a timetable for voter and candidate registration. These elections — which are the first to include women as both voters and candidates (if any) — will permit 12 days for campaigning.
JEDDAH: The third municipal election, which will see for the first time women participating as voters and candidates, will be held between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Dec. 12. The results will be out the following day.
“The Municipal Election Committee has set a timeframe for the polls, including the timings for registration of voters and candidates,” said Jedaie bin Nahar Al-Qahtani, spokesman of the election panel.
The whole election process, including campaign, would take three months. Registration of voters will be done between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. from Aug. 22 to Sept. 14, he said Registration of candidates will be from Aug. 30 to Sept. 17, the spokesman said.
Saudi Arabia has no minimum age at which a woman can marry. Many Saudis think this needs correction, that minors need to be protected, and that the country does need to specify a minimum age for marriage.
Saudi Gazette, reprinting an AFP story, reports that Spain — the European country that used to have the lowest age — is raising the minimum from 14 years to 16. That is roughly the target Saudis are seeking. By showing that the world is closing in on a range of ages, the paper is encouraging the government to follow along.
MADRID — Spain is moving to raise the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 16 in a bid to boost protection of minors and bring the country in line with its European Union neighbors. The legislation was approved by the lower house of Parliament last month and was sent to the Senate on Friday for debate and likely approval over the coming months. Spanish law allows boys and girls to marry at 14 with permission from a judge. Without such consent, they must wait until they are 18. Spain has one of Europe’s lowest minimum ages for marriage in the EU, with most members setting it at 16.