For the first time ever, Saudi women began campaigning for public office in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, the conservative Kingdom that imposes several restrictions social and political on women.
According to the Shanghai daily, citing AFP, hundreds of Saudi women began campaigning for public office on Saturday in the Muslim kingdom, an action seen as a step forwards in the country's reform process. The elections will be held on December 12.
More than 900 women stood alongside thousands of men to put up their names for the municipal ballot, the first time women have been allowed to vote.
Two candidates were disqualified, according to the report. "I've been eliminated as a candidate for the municipal elections," Loujain Hathloul said in a tweet. "I will be filing my objection via the appropriate channels."
Hathoul's disqualification was expected because she has been in trouble wiht Saudi authorities ealrier. She was detained two months after she tried to drive into the Kingdom last December from the United Arab Emirates, in defiance of a Saudi ban on female motorists,. the report said. In the Kingdom, women also have to cover themselves in black from head to toe in public and take the permission of male family members to travel, work or marry.
Nassima al-Sadah, a human rights activist and would-be candidate in Qatif, said her name had been removed from the list. "I don't know why," said Sadah, who was trained in electioneering by the National Democratic Institute, a Washington non-profit organization.
The country's first municipal elections were held in 2005, followed by another vote in 2011. In both cases only men were allowed to take part. In Saudi Arabia, from restaurants to banks, offices and election facilities, the sexes are strictly segregated.
"We will vote for the women even though we don't know anything about them," Um Fawaz, a teacher in her 20s, said in Hafr al-Batin city. "It's enough that they are women."
It was the late King Abdullah who opened the door for women to participate in these elections. He died in anuary and his successor has followed his lead.
About 7,000 people are vying for seats on 284 municipal councils, according to the Saudi electoral commission. Only around 131,000 women have signed up to vote, compared to more than 1.35 million men, out of a population of 21 million, the report said.