Ever since the inception of the Saudi monarchy since 1932, women were marginalized and never had any major role in the political arena. In fact, Saudi women in general, under the countries strict Sharia Law, have no rights whatsoever; not even equivalent to their female contemporaries in the other Arab states who can work and drive and have a coop educational system. The main reason for such depravity has to do with their low status under the Islam Shari Law which drives its main interpretation from the Quran. Add to that the strict view of the Wahhabi sect of Islam, which is more dominant in the kingdom. As a result, Saudi women and all other women in the Kingdom have no hope at all for any type of equality.
According to the Quran and Sharia, women are considered a second class in comparison to men, in terms of their rights to marry non-Muslims, divorce an abusive husband, being subjugated to the divine order to men to beat them, receive an equal share of inheritance, offer a legal witness on equal grounds with me, or any other basic marital rights as wives. These are but a few of the long list of negative treatments.
Furthermore, they have no freedom in choosing how to dress in public, even if they are dressing modestly, and, in the case of Saudi, they have no right to run for office or even vote for an elected man. In addition, they have no right to drive a car or any other form of transportation. This prohibition derived by the religious leaders in Saudi was based on their own fear that if women are allowed to drive, then this permission will pave the ground for them to commit sexual immoralities or extramarital affairs. In other words, they can’t be trusted as a sound and moral human being. In other word, this prohibition is intentionally imposed on women as a form of tight leach around them in a kingdom that is
dominated by control at both religious and political levels.
Therefore, when reports emerge concerning new changes regarding the status of Saudi women by way of allowing to vote in the near future; a promise that was made numerous times in the past, one can’t help but to wonder; what is the real motive behind such apparent and promising changes.
One possible answer has to do with the attempt by the kingdom to polish its archaic image when it comes to how women are treated. Since their culture is almost a 1,400 years old one in a world that is so keen on freedom and democracy for the most part. Hence, If image,
then, is the real issue, one would have expected such move to have taken place decades ago. Saudi women have been fighting for their rights for quite some time to no avail. However, it is very apparent that the Saudi authorities, for the time being, are making every effort to calm the atmosphere down inside the kingdom as a result of the many boiling pots in the surrounding areas, which includes neighboring Bahrain, Yemen, or Egypt. Not to mention the recent tension in their Eastern region stirred up by its very own Iranian sympathizers, the Saudi Shiites.
Therefore, improving the status of women, even on paper, may in the mind of these authorities, allow for to buying of some needed time to strengthen their grip on the situation and permits them to crack down any daring attempt of an up-rise against it. Something the Kingdom never experienced since its inception nor that it knows how to deal with in a true democratic sense without reverting to violence against innocent protestors or activists.
Take for example the most recent protest by women in June, 2011 against the ban on driving, which resulted on the arrest of some of the leaders of such movement. Another recent example has to do with the attempt of Saudis to gather and voice out some demands in a similar fashion as was done by the Egyptian youths, which also was faced by a direct and clear threat by the Saudi authority to warn against any such attempt. Both events can serve as an example of the real inner intent by these authorities. Which, in turn, is another important and vital reason behind such recent gesture by the Saudi authorities towards their helpless women? After all, if they (the authority) would to announce such changes to the world, then any negative image(s) against the kingdom will soon subside or may even disappear, as it did in the past. In other words, such notion is nothing more than a tactic, intended to draw positive global results.
After all, the Saudi have been successful in diverting any negative global image against them by way of generous financial support to foreign institutions, media outlets, and governments alike. The main purpose is to influence such mediums to present a likable view about the Saudis. Unfortunately, this time things are not the same, the global attitude towards the region is on the “wake-up” mode, and recent the uprisings against the kingdom and other Islamic states are bringing a global awareness concerning the tyranny of these governments.
The kingdom today is in its pre-boiling stage. Yet, in a little while, the real dilemma will appear as a sign of trouble to come. The real change is not by issuing initiatives or decrees concerning future changes, which may or may not materialize. The real change is an honest and transparent immediate overhaul!
Until then, whether women can vote or not, should be the least of the kingdom’s worry. The real worry is; WHAT’s NEXT?
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