The municipal elections that were conducted in 2005 were the first taste of democracy and governmental participation that Saudis have ever had, unfortunately it was not up to anyone’s expectations. People voted according to tribal affiliation and who their sheikhs directed them to vote for. Campaigns were virtually non-existent and at the end of it all the elected were not heard of, nor results seen.
Above all, the issue that stands out the most with the 2005 elections were that women were banned from voting and nominations. The real excuse was that a large faction of our society still thinks of women as property, sheep, and/or seductive sinful creatures out to seduce them into damnation. However the official excuse was a bit more diplomatic; that it was the first experiment and that the government was not prepared, facilities-wise, to receive women voters.
Since a lot of younger Saudis have started to question the fatwas about women being incapable, lack of women only facilities has become the go-to explanation. This is the same excuse that is currently being employed to explain why women are still banned from driving cars, and not only by muttawas but also by people who seem quite pro-women in most other aspects. They say we need women traffic police as if when an accident happens, not the nearest patrol should attend the site, but rather the one that matches the gender of the driver!? They say we can’t even begin to think about women driving until we have gender segregated driving schools and traffic administration. Lack of gender segregation has not stopped our police, firemen, ambulances, courts…etc. None of these have women employees and yet women are still served by them all. Then we have the government faction that has the most interaction with women on an everyday basis, the PVPV, and they too have no women employees to attend to women.
Bottom-line it’s an empty excuse and those who use it know it to be so. Nothing says that louder than the secret meetings that were conducted regarding the upcoming 2011 municipal elections. In March of last year Alwatan reported that the municipal council members, 1212 in total and of course all men were asked if there was any point in allowing women to vote or participate in any way. This is getting to be beyond ridiculous. How long are women going to be treated like third class citizens? And I’m not the only one frustrated with the situation. Eman Al Asfour, Iman Fallatah and Khulood Al Fahad have decided to take things into their own hands and have started a promising campaign demanding the right to complete participation in the upcoming municipal elections. Besides joining the campaign on its Facebook page, Saudis can actually take part by sending in their contact information, suggestions and how they can help.