Saudi women protest at university in Riyadh
Saudi women protest at university in Riyadh Israel news photo: courtesy of Arabia Today

Women in Saudi Arabia have begun the struggle for equality on a basic right that is not even questioned in most Western nations – the right to vote. Registration for the privilege in upcoming municipal elections, scheduled to be held in September for only the second time in the past half century, began April 23. 

But women have not been allowed to participate.

Regardless, dozens of women across the country have decided it is time to challenge an ancient Islamic patriarchal system that has kept them from driving, traveling, working or even signing medical forms without the permission of a male guardian – any male relative, even their own minor child will do.

A group of 11 women in Riyadh who organized themselves through the Twitter social networking website appeared at one registration center in an attempt to force the issue.

The newly-formed movement, “Saudi Women Revolution,” has a Facebook page and can also be found through a Twitter hash tag search. Although they failed to convince the elections officers, the women – all of whom were clad in regulation black burkas – nevertheless expressed satisfaction to international reporters with their first attempt to assert their rights.

Saudi Women Protest in Riyadh
Hundreds of Saudi women in Riyadh also took part in demonstrations at the Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University on Thursday. According to a report posted on the Arabia Today blog, the protests came after the women, all of whom were students, allegedly failed an English exam at the university.

“The students felt hard done by the results, which were marked subjectively without a clear academic criteria,” blogger Hashimilion reported.

The university president reportedly tried to stop the demonstration but was unable to do so, faced with hundreds of women who chanted, “We will continue to demonstrate until the president resigns!”

In response, the president informed the students that all those who failed the exam would have to repeat the entire year and retake all their subjects. “They will start from scratch because they've caused a lot of chaos and humiliated the university staff,” he said. “This will be a lesson to all students, not just in this university but in all universities around the country.”