Saudi Arabian women have made history on Saturday in their country by voting for the first time in local council elections. They have also been allowed to stand as candidates in a massive leap forward in the deeply conservative Islamic kingdom.
As in other aspects of Saudi society, voting has been segregated. Despite the milestone, the 130,000 women registered to cast their ballot falls far short of the 1.3 million men able to vote.
At polling stations in the capital, Riyadh there was a buzz in the air.
“My feelings?, asked young female voter, Najd Mohamad. I am so proud of this improvement in Saudi and I really hope that any female gets elected today, because this is a really big opportunity for females, and I think that they could really make a difference in Saudi.”
For one middle-aged voter, Thuraya al-Ghamdi, the occasion was the perfect opportunity to choose a representative that would give her and other women a voice:
“I came to exercise my right to vote for a representative that can speak on my behalf in my neighbourhood or my council. I looked at the list of female candidates and without knowing them personally, I voted for the candidate I feel will be able to speak on our behalf and achieve our demands.”
Female candidates”:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34985939 have had to speak behind a partition during the election campaign.
Polls were open to men in 2005 for the first time in 40 years.
The decision to allow women to vote was taken by the late King Abdullah who was keen for women to have a bigger public role.