Female candidates begin first ever election campaign in Saudi Arabia

Nassima al-Sadah, a candidate for municipal councils in the Gulf coast city of Qatif, has been disqualified from running. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi women began their first-ever campaign for public office on Sunday, a small step forward for women’s rights in the conservative kingdom. In the December 12 municipal elections, there will be more than 900 female candidates; it also will mark the first time women in the country are allowed to vote. Nevertheless, The Guardian reports that two female activists have been disqualified from running: Loujain Hathloul, who was detained for more than two months after defying the country’s ban on women driving, and Nassima al-Sadah, a human rights activist. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy which applies a very strict interpretation of Islam (making it the only country not allowing women to drive) and has often faced international criticism for its disregard of women’s rights. Municipal elections were introduced in 2005 by late King Abdullah, who also announced women would get the vote this year. However, only around 131,000 women have registered as voters, compared with more than 1.35 million men, from a pool of 21 million native Saudis.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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