Saudi King Appoints Women to Shura Council
On Friday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah issued a decree appointing women to 30 of the 150 seats on the country’s Shura Council. The move fulfilled a promise made by the King in 2011, and was met with a mixture of optimism and skepticism. Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist, tweeted, “The amendments ignored Saudis’ demands of electing the members and increasing the council powers! It still cannot pass or enforce laws.” Iyad Madani, a former minister, said that the “confirmation of [women's] participation in the political process” should be celebrated.
On Monday, King Abdullah named Prince Saud bin Nayef as governor of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The province is home to the country’s oil industry and Shia minority, which has been holding regular protests for more rights and the release of detainees over the past two years. In the ultra-conservative Qassim province, more than 100 clerics signed a petition demanding fair trials for detainees held for security reasons. It states, “The issue…has resulted in growing frustration among the people…This has become evident through the protests and sit-ins that are increasing in number and widening in scope and intensifying in tone…It would be wise to resolve this issue quickly.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia rejected the widespread criticism it received for executing a Sri Lankan maid last week. A government spokesman said that Saudi Arabia “respects…all rules and laws and protects the rights of its people and residents, and completely rejects any intervention in its affairs and judicial verdicts.”
In the Washington Post, Janine Zacharia writes that Washington has remained silent as Saudi Arabia has tried leading human rights activists Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid. She declares that now is the time for Western governments to “do something to try to reverse this trend of Saudi Arabia imprisoning writers and activists.”