The Saudi King has given women the right to vote and run in municipal elections, which are the only public elections in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Arabiya reports that Malek Abdollah announced the change at the opening of the Shura Council’s new term. It means that women will be able to take part in the next elections four years from now. Nominations are already set for the current elections, which take place on Thursday.
“Modernity compatible with Islamic values is vital in today’s world,” the Saudi King said. “Those who disobey this will have no place among us.”
While the Shura Council had recommended allowing women to vote in the local polls, the Ulama (the clergy) said it would be a sign of corruption and immorality.
Saudi Arabian women’s rights activists have been persistent in their demand for the right to vote. In April, Samar Badawi filed suit against the municipal affairs ministry for upholding the ban on women’s participation in local polls.
Saudi women have long been denied basic rights such as driving and travelling without the consent of a male guardian.
In May, Mana al-Sharif, a 32-year-old computer consultant, was detained for 10 days after posting a video of herself driving around the city of Khobar.