To silence its critics at home and improve its image abroad, possibly in reaction to Kuwait’s election of four women to its semi-official parliament, the Saudi government has appointed four part-time women to advise the royally hand picked 150 male members of its Consultative Council. Members of the Council are appointed by royal decrees and are removed in the same manner. Some Council members are, in fact, removed when they become inquisitive as in the case of Dr. Zulfa.

The Council has no powers; rather it reviews and rubber stamps the King’s decrees and proposals such as budgets. The King was careful that the four women whom he appointed, not as members of the Council but as advisors to it, were all from well known families. They will not be allowed to mingle with men or discuss and approve the King’s proposals and other directives.

One can only hope that these women will not allow themselves to simply be used as tools to make the Saudi ruling family look better in the eyes of the international community. Moving past this superficial role may be difficult, because the Council itself holds no legislative powers. Its functions are limited to reviews, approvals and hosting foreign leaders who attend the Council’s Chamber to give speeches about their countries’ relations with Saudi Arabia.

Prominent among its honored foreign guests was US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who when asked how she felt to be in a Chamber where Saudi women are not even allowed to enter, replied: "I am very pleased that after 200-plus years in the U.S. we finally have a speaker. It took us a long time." Many Saudi women and men took this to mean support for the oppressive status of Saudi women. www.thenational.ae/article/20090616/foreign/706159870/1011


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