Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has said women will have the right to stand and vote in future local elections and join the advisory Shura council as full members.

“Because we refuse to marginalise women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulama [clerics] and others … to involve women in the Shura council as members, starting from the next term,” Abdullah, 88, said in a speech.

“Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote,” he added.

It was by far the biggest reform in Saudi Arabia’ ordered by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who took power six years ago .

The changes will come after elections on Thursday, in which women are barred from voting or standing for office.

“This is great news,” said Wajeha al-Huwaider, a Saudi writer and women’s rights activist. “Women’s voices will finally be heard.

“Now it is time to remove other barriers like not allowing women to drive cars and not being able to function, to live a normal life without male guardians.”

“Despite the issue of the effectiveness of these councils, women’s involvement in them was necessary. Maybe after women join there will be other changes,” said Naila Attar, who organised the Baladi (Arabic for My Country) campaign calling for women’s involvement in the local council elections.

“I believe this is a step to involve women in the public sphere. It is the top of the pyramid and a step in the direction for more decisions regarding women.”

Source: guardian.co.uk