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Saudi Women Respond to Exclusion from Voting: Baladi Campaign

in SAUDI ARABIA, 23/05/2011

The Baladi Campaign was launched by a group of women activists from across Saudi Arabia after the Saudi government announced in March that it would deny women their right to political participation in the upcoming September 2011 elections. The government justified its ban on female voters on the same premise used to prevent them from voting in the 2005 elections: lack of institutional preparedness.

Several Saudi women have recently challenged this ban by showing up at voter registration offices in different Saudi cities demanding voter identification cards. To my knowledge, only two women were able to register their names, both in Khobar in the Eastern Province. All others were denied. To date, two women have successfully filed claims to the Board of Grievances in an attempt to fight the ban on women participating in and running for elections. The following campaign statement originally appeared in Arabic on the group’s Facebook page,

We are a patriotic group organized by independent feminists who represent all parts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our goal is to achieve effective and full participation of Saudi women in municipal councils through reintegration and raising awareness. We believe in every woman’s right to participation and the importance of her role in improving marginalized municipal services and social issues, for women are often more in touch with the needs of the family and society. We also believe in the importance of supporting men and women in the upcoming elections.

Our goals parallel the orientations that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has adopted vis-à-vis supporting Saudi women’s participation in public affairs as well as those of senior government officials towards empowering women in society. This initiative to support women’s participation in the upcoming municipal elections comes as a culmination of these trends and initiatives, in addition to all the major successes achieved by Saudi women over the past few years in various fields.

Our goals are based on many dimensions, the most prominent ones being:

Social Premise: The contemporary role of women has surpassed traditional limits. The women’s movement in our Saudi society began to lead change and assume unprecedented roles due to great social transformations. As a result of all the successes that women have achieved, they need to gain legal protection.

Legal Premise: Equality between women and men should guarantee women access to equal rights and the exercise of such rights without any discrimination, including participation in the elections, a legitimate right for women not only according to international charters that Saudi Arabia has ratified but also according to religious legislation and texts.

Political Premise: Full participation in general elections contributes to raising political awareness among all citizens, which would in turn give them a greater sense of responsibility and bring them closer to decision-making processes and public affairs.

Cultural Premise: Women in Saudi Arabia have a negative stereotypical image as being oppressed, completely marginalized, and incapable of being productive members of society. It is important to change this negative image in order to show that Saudi women are like all other women in the world, with their own concerns, hopes, capabilities and potentials and can express themselves in their own ways.

 

Values:

Professionalism: Exceptional professionalism in job performance

Teamwork Spirit: Providing a friendly, cooperative and understanding atmosphere and ensuring the wellbeing of the majority

Transparency: Administrative practices characterized by honesty, clarity and openness

Accountability: Common moral and professional regulations that secure commitment to principles and standards

Giving and Devotion: Willingness to sacrifice and work hard

Strategic Goals:

1- Raising awareness on the individual and institutional levels of the importance of full participation in municipal elections.

2- Working towards securing the right of women to vote and run for elections in the 2011 municipal elections.

3- Preparing and training elections employees as well as voters and those running for municipal election.
 

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