“It Is Our Right”: Saudi Women on the Positives, Pitfalls of Municipal Elections

In “‘It Is Our Right’: Saudi Women Speak on the Positives, Pitfalls of Municipal Elections,” Americans for Democracy & Human Rights & Bahrain (ADHRB) reviews December’s elections in Saudi Arabia through the eyes of a group of politically-active Saudi women. Excerpting from in-depth interviews conducted in the month before the elections, the briefing paper explores the opinions and experiences of four individuals — speaking under the pseudonyms Rana, Zeina, Norah, and Aisha — on how women’s first-time participation as voters and candidates would affect their status within society and contribute to Saudi Arabia’s democratic development as a whole.

All four women supplied blunt, frequently pessimistic answers to ADHRB’s questions, expressing their dissatisfaction with the municipal councils’ lack of power and the limitations imposed by the government on women’s voter registration and campaigning. From this common perspective, however, the interviewees diverged, with one offering unequivocal support for women’s participation in the elections, another calling for a boycott, and two more wrestling with best strategies for the advancement of women’s rights on a societal level.

In addition to the interviews, the paper contains background information on the elections and a list of recommendations for how the United States can positively impact the status of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. A PDF of the paper can be accessed here.