First Published: 2013-01-16

 

Saudi clerics break silence on king's move to empower women

 

Hardline clerics protest outside royal palace in Riyadh against what they say are ‘dangerous changes in conservative kingdom.

 

Middle East Online

Protests outside his palace

RIYADH - A group of hardline clerics protested outside the royal palace in Riyadh against the king's decision to appoint 30 women to the kingdom's top advisory body, a YouTube video posted on Wednesday showed.

The footage of Tuesday's demonstration showed clerics protesting what they said were "dangerous changes in the country and these latest appointments in the Shura Council that do not represent the philanthropists and the good people."

"These appointments are not representative of the whole society," one of the clerics told the small gathering, referring to King Abdullah's decision on Friday to name 30 women to the 150-seat Shura Council.

The group called for clerics to be granted similar representation on the council, which is appointed by the king to advise him on policy but cannot legislate.

The unidentified cleric said the group had gathered to demand a meeting with the head of the royal court, Khaled al-Tuwejari, to offer him "advice".

He was also shown criticising the refusal by Saudi officials to meet the protesters who had rallied despite the kingdom's ban on protests. The video footage showed a police car parked on the opposite side of the road.

Saudi human rights lawyer Walid Abulkhair said that "the protest was against the appointment of women to the Shura Council."

Abdullah's decrees marked a breakthrough in the conservative kingdom that imposes stringent restrictions on females, who are banned from driving and denied the right to travel without male consent.

The monarch took the decisions following consultations with religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict version of Islamic sharia law, according to the decrees.

The 30 chosen women include university graduates, human rights activists and two princesses.

Abdullah had been carefully treading towards change, introducing municipal elections for the first time in 2005.

In 2011 he granted women the right to vote and run as candidates in the next local election, set for 2015, because "we refuse to marginalise women's role in Saudi society."

 

Bloodshed in Gaza surges amid no truce

Major western powers call for Libya ceasefire

UN warns buying oil from terrorists could lead to sanctions

Syria rebels advance towards Hama military airport

Emirates airline to avoid flying over Iraq

Italian fire-fighting planes to come to Libya rescue

US-Israeli ties sink to new depths over Gaza war

Air Algerie crash black boxes sent to France

Warning of Tripoli catastrophe after huge oil depot blaze

US, UN call for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Egypt army kills 14 jihadists in restive Sinai Peninsula

Calls for temporary Gaza ceasefire fall on deaf ears

Yemen army foils new Qaeda attempt to seize military posts

Investigators need ‘few days’ to probe cause of Algeria plane crash

Tunisia army suffers more losses in open war with terrorism

Jihadists advance amid escalation in Syria anti-regime offensive

Iraq Shiite militia takes bloody revenge against ‘Islamic State’ in Baquba

Fierce clashes kill at least 38 people in Benghazi

Israel resumes devastating military assault on Gaza

Thousands face famine as food security situation worsens in Somalia

Death toll in Gaza climbs as fragile ceasefire reveals destruction

Egypt summons Turkey charge d'affaires for second time in one week

‘Islamic State’ jihadists dynamite Shiite shrine in Mosul

US evacuates embassy staff in Libya over ‘real risk’

Investigators begin 'difficult' probe into Air Algerie plane disaster

Armed men snatch Head of Baghdad Provincial Council

‘Islamic State’ beheads Syrian soldiers in Raqa

Kerry in Paris for talks on long-term Gaza truce

Hezbollah chief speaks out on Gaza

Two rival Islamic states in Syria power struggle

Crete protest against Syria chemicals destruction in Mediterranean

74 killed in IS assault on Syria regime territory

Iran confirms arrest of Washington Post correspondent

Somali 'Shebab commanders' killed in AU offensive

Paris: survivors of Air Algerie jet crash 'unlikely'

Jordan shots down drone near Syria border

Gaza civilian toll spiralling to above 800

UN urges Europe to tackle Mediterranean migrant crisis

From Israel with ‘virus’: Death threat letter reaches Palestinian mission in France

Ordeal of ‘apostasy’ woman ends with departure from Sudan

Another bloody day as Israel targets civilians in UN-run school

‘Islamic State’ launches multiple attacks on Syria army

Attack on Egypt army post bears fingerprints of foreign intelligence

Harassment of Christians escalates in Islamist-run Sudan

Air Algerie plane goes missing over Mali