Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah announced Sunday that women will have the right to vote for the first time beginning in 2015.
King Abdullah made the announcement in the opening term of the Shura Council -- the formal body that advises the king, according to the BBC. The news service noted that women will also soon have the right to serve on the advisory council.
Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with Sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior clerics and others ... to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting for next term, the king said.
Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote, he continued.
Given the ultraconservative nature of the Islamic country, the decision by the king is considered a major milestone, one that a White House official hailed.
We welcome Saudi King Abdullah's announcement today that women will serve as full members of the Shura Council in the next session, and will have the right to participate in future elections, the official said in a statement. These reforms recognize the significant contributions women in Saudi Arabia make to their society and will offer them new ways to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and communities.
Despite the new decree, women will still be unable to serve as Cabinet ministers, drive a vehicle or travel internationally without the consent of a male guardian, the Associated Press reports.
Furthermore, the next local elections are this Thursday. The fact that women are unable to vote upsets some women, given that they saw the ruling as a long time coming.
Why not tomorrow? prominent Saudi feminist Wajeha al-Hawaidar asked, according to the AP. I think the king doesn't want to shake the country, but we look around us and we think it is a shame ... when we are still pondering how to meet simple women's rights.