Saudi Arabia: Known to Keep His Promises, King Abdullah Appoints Saudi Women to Shura Council

shura council



King Abdullah will likely be remembered as one of the most progressive leaders in Saudi Arabia’s history and particularly in regards to rights for Saudi women.  His most significant action has been the recent appointment of 30 Saudi Saudi women to its Shura Council (Parliament).

The Shura Council is the formal advisory board in the Kingdom and where new laws are proposed.  It is a historical time in Saudi Arabia’s history for the first 30 Saudi women to be inducted into its previously all-male domain since its establishment in 1927.

King Abdullah first made his pronouncement that females may become members of the council in September 2011.  In January 2013 his pronouncement became a reality with women filling 30 of the 150 seats.  It is now Saudi law that women must always hold at least a fifth of the seats on the council.

American Bedu has been in correspondence with several Saudi women and asked them for their reaction to the inception of women into Saudi’s Shura Council.

“This is the start of a huge change for women now.” remarked one Saudi woman who lives in Riyadh.

Another Saudi woman who was educated in the West and makes her home in Riyadh shared,   “Personally, I wasn’t surprised they appointed women as full time shura members. I saw that step coming a few years back when they appointed Dr. Maha Almuneef along with other 6 women as a counsellor/advisor for alshura. I remember telling myself it was only a matter of time before they appoint them or other women full time members. Later on they increased the number to 12. And now they created the fulltime member positions. And mind you, my intuition was correct some of these 12 women are now the 2013’s members!

I have no opinion of the shura council in general, both men and women members. I do not believe they have authority or power to do anything really. A lot of members are some of my acquaintance’s fathers or relatives. I haven’t seen them doing anything in passion or excitement, some of them accepted the position to enjoy the perks and to add to their social prestige. and I will stop at this point.

Generally speaking, I think 2013 will be very important for women in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah has always been keen to help out women and he is doing his best to keep his word. More positive actions will come to life in this specific aspect as well as others.”


In accordance with Saudi Arabia’s culture, male and female members will be segregrated.  The new female members will be seated in a special area and enter the council through a separate door.

The newly appointed 30 women are identified as follows:

Her Royal Highness Princess/ Sarrah bint Faisal bin Abdulaziz
2. Dr./ Amal bint Salamah bin Sulaiman Al-Shaman
3. Dr. / Thuraya bint Ahmed bin Obeid bin Mohammed Obeid
4. Dr. / Thuraya bint Ibrahim bin Hussein al-Arrayed
5. Dr. / Al-Jawharah bint Ibrahim bin Mohammed Bu-Besht
6. Dr./ Hamdah bint Khalaf bin Miqbel Al-Enzy
7. Dr./ Hanan bint Abdulraheem bin Mutlaq Al-Ahmadi
8. Dr./ Hayat bint Sulaiman bin Hasan Sindi
9. Dr. / Dalal bint Mekhled bin Jahez Al-Harbi
10. Dr./ Zainet bint Muthanna bin Abduou Abu-Taleb
11. Dr. / Elham bint Mahjoub bin Ahmed Hasanain
12. Dr./ Salwa bint Abdullah bin Fahad Al-Hazaa
13. Dr. / Fatima bint Mohammed bin Mohsen Al Saeed Al-Qarni
14. Dr. / Fadwa bint Salamah bin Odeh Abu Marifah
15. Dr. / Fardous bint Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saleh
16. Dr. / Khawla Bint Sami Alkrie
17. Dr. / Lubna bint Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al-Tayeb
18. Dr. / Latifa bint Othman bin Ibrahim Al-Shaalan
19. Dr. / Mastourah bint Obaid bin Lafi Al-Husseini Al-Shammari
20. Dr. / Muna bint Abdullah bin Saeed Al Mushayt
21. Dr. / Muna bint Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Dosari
22. Her Royal Highness Princess / Moudi bint Khalid bin Abdulaziz
23. Dr. / Moudi bint Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Dugaither
24. Dr. / Nihad bint Mohammed Saeed bin Ahmed Al-Jeshi
25. Dr. / Nora bint Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Mubarak
26. Dr. / Nora bint Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al-Asqah
27. Dr. / Nora bint Abdullah bin Abdulrahman Al-Adwan
28. Ms. / Huda bint Abdulrahman bin Saleh Al-Halisi
29. Dr. / Hia bint Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al-Manea
30. Dr. / Wafa bint Mahmoud bin Abdullah Taibah



28 Responses

  1. If King Abdullah’s and his family’s intent is to embark upon genuine reform, social justice, equality for women, national unity, just system and eradication of all forms of institutionalized discriminatory policies, they could have formed an inclusive and independent national committee to select a list of well-known advocates of women’s rights and submit the names to the King to choose from.

    The list should have included well-known advocates for women’s rights like Wajeha Al-Hwaider, Hissa Helal, Fowzia Al-Bker, Hatoon Al-Fasi, Reem Asaad, Alia Banaja, Faiza Ambah, Bidriyah Al-Bisher, Fowzia Alyouni, Princess Reema Bint Bandar, Lina Almaeena, Sammar Fatani, Souad Al-Shammari, Princess Basma Bint Saud, Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel, Iman Al-Nafjan, Ibtihal Mubarak, Hala Al-Dosari, Suhaila Hammad, Mody Al-Khalaf, Lubna Husain, Nadeen Al-Budair, Thuraya Al-Shiri, Simmer Al-Migrin, Ameerah Kashgari, Manal Al-Sharif, Samar Badawi, Abeer Mishkhas and Halima Muthafer, just to name a few.

    Instead, the King and his anti-progress and yes uncle advisers appointed mostly unknown specialized women that should have been left to conduct their scientific and other professional research which could benefit the country more than using their names and non-social activism achievements to deceive Saudi women and the rest of the world.

    Remember the 2005 municipal elections and the domestic and global hoopla that accompanied it? What became of it? OO+OO. Party spoiler, again.

  2. Progress! Now for something real bold, a cabinet member?

  3. Salaam alaikhoum. I think this is a step in the right direction. The problem as I see it (only through following this blog) is that reformist as he is; the King still has to keep in with the religious establishment, so appointing some of the “well known advocates of womens rights” would probably backfire on him. To my mind choosing “safe”women (regarding the religious establishment) is probably best to start with. Once everyone has got used to the novelty (saudi wise) of women in power ( whatever this council can and cannot do), then perhaps start to introduce the “womens rights advocates”! It would still be interesting though, as further posts to Amercain Bedu, for Carole to provide some background information on each of these new appointees (education, scientific or other professional background), for those of us – like myself – who are not of a saudi/middle eastern background or expat workers in the area. Maasalaama, Amelia

  4. Thanks Amelia for your comment and great suggestion.

    Yes; already there are those from the conservative sectors protesting of the appointment of women to Shura. I believe that was to be expected but over time there will be more acceptance and opportunities.

    On Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 6:27 AM, American Bedu

  5. If the King and his family are that concerned about the reactions of the religious clerics why keep them on the payroll, provide them with luxurious SUVs to chase people off cliffs and made it illegal to criticize them even when they prevent young girls from escaping incineration in a burning school because they were not camouflaged in black.

    The only power the religious establishment has is what’s given to it by the royals. Most people of Arabia know this simple fact and have been challenging it albeit indirectly most but not all of the time.

  6. I’m sure many many both within and outside of Saudi wish that it could be so simple to “realign” the religious clerics and the Haia but it is not as simple as waving a hand and making a new decree.

    On Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 1:05 PM, American Bedu

  7. It was easy in 1929 when King Abdul Aziz crushed the chiefs of the Ikhwan when they opposed his friendship with the British infidels.

    Plus, why attend to the needs of a few thousand stone-thinking men on the expense of 26 million people?

  8. Ali,
    I agree with you on most of what you said, but the religious clerics don’t get their power for free. It’s the oldest deal in the house of Saud to provide all the support necessary for Muhammad ibn Abdulwahhab and his movement on the condition that they declare the legitimacy of the Saudi regime as “Shariah compliant” and give fatwas against whoever opposes them. It’s a reciprocal relationship

  9. Thanks, Yasser. That’s what I said. I have been trying to do an extensive research regarding this issue, but have not been able to do it. Where are you?

  10. @Carol, Yes it is as simple as making a decree and send these guys back to the 7th century. King Abdulah is an absolute monarch with a very strong military branch that has complete loyalty to him.

    The reason he does not do it is they provide support for the abusive actions of the Monarchy or the King lacks the courage to make such bold step. I think it is both…

  11. King Abdullah and the rest may get a kick of these “infidel” women crisscrossing the planet, operating one of the most complicated machine modern technologies has invented. The shocking thing is these women have no male guardian on board.

    Girl Power: The Photo of Female Pilots That Nearly Caused an Airport Controversy

    Where: Germany

    January 17, 2013 at 9:38 AM | by JetSetCD | Comments (0)

    When was the last time you flew in a plane piloted by a woman? What about two women, both pilot and co-pilot? It’s possible to not even know since passengers rarely see their flight crews much anymore, but they are up there. Trust us.

    Starting this week, travelers on Lufthansa will get to see the very rare occurrence of two women in the cockpit…before even stepping onboard a plane. Famous Berlin-based photographer Kiki Kausch has installed her triptych, titled “A380 Female Cockpit,” at the JFK Business Class lounge.

    The three images capture two normal Lufthansa pilots, Fleur and Karin, at work in their office, which just happens to be the cockpit of one of the airline’s A380 superjumbos en route from Frankfurt to Singapore (LH 778). The photos were actually taken as the plane cruised high above Afghanistan, the ethereal light of sunrise over the Hindukush illuminating the women.

    Kausch’s subjects are typically famous men—Karl Lagerfeld, Pierce Brosnan and Leo DiCaprio to name a few—but photographing Fleur and Karin to dispel the usual stigma of a male-led flight deck proved a welcome challenge. We chatted with Kiki about this very modern image, and she divulged that not only did she pop into the cockpit for this photoshoot, but also traveled all the way back from Singapore to Frankfurt in the jumpseat.

    “The flight was full and I’d rather be up front watching these dynamic women work,” Kiki explains.

    Fun fact: the female captain here is married to another Lufthansa A380 captain. Together they are the only husband and wife team in the world flying A380s, though they regularly alternate work months in order to care for their two young children.

    You can view the massive, original images in this lounge if you’re flying in Business or First Class, or if you have Star Alliance Gold or HON Circle status. Eventually the triptych will tour to other Lufthansa flagship lounges around the world.

    This brings us to another fun tidbit, as Kiki admitted that Dubai International Airport was on the brink of withholding approval for the photo (women in positions of authority not exactly being the norm there), but after a few weeks of thinking it over DXB came through with a yes.

    Bonus history!
    Lufthansa first welcomed a woman to the flight deck way, way back in the 1920s. That woman, Marga von Etzdorf, piloted a commercial Junkers F13 for the airline. In the modern jet age, however, it took a little longer for a woman to take the controls; Nicola Lisy co-piloted Boeing 737 and 747s from 1988 until 2000, when she finally added her captain’s stripe and took the left seat. There are currently 27 female captains in Lufthansa’s roster, and many more co-pilots.

  12. In some societies appointing members rather than electing them is good for some groups such as women and minorities.

    In Saudi parliament there are 20% women, while in some elected parliaments such as the US, Russia, Japan, Brazil and India women represented by less than 20%.

    If women are appointed by Obama rather than by election they might be given more seat in the congress. So if American women want to have more seats in congress they could advocate the Saudi example of filling the parliament.

    However, Shura Council should be 100% women in my opinion. Those 120 male members have valuable expertise should not be wasted in Shura Council. Next step should be appointing some children to Shura Council because they are currently underrepresented.

  13. Excellent Snowman, great way to show your understanding of democracy and diversity. I think you qualify for chairman of the Children Shurra council 🙂

  14. Three observations:

    1. The Council doesn’t actually decide anything. Its resolutions have only advisory powers. Accept if you wish and ignore if you wish.

    2. Because of #1 above, it’s been nicknamed the Shurba Council, no doubt due to the great difference it makes in the caloric intake of its members.

    3. Most female names come from the handful of tribes traditionally loyal to Al-Saud. Alharbis, Almutairis, Alobeids blah blah. No Shias of course. God no.

  15. MoQ

    I don’t really see why you went to this extreme judgment. However, the fact that you read my comment and comment on it is really appreciated. However, if you are going to continue your kindness and read my comments and comment on them in the future, I would be really grateful if you comment about any spelling or grammar mistakes on my future comments. Thank you and please keep assessing my comments.

  16. NN

    24. Dr. / Nihad bint Mohammed Saeed bin Ahmed Al-Jeshi

    is woman and Shia

  17. Snowman:

    The shura council has no authority whatsoever and it is nothing but window dressing. A senator or representative in congress in the USA has actuallpower in which to sway others in order to make decisive decisions. There is a boat load of difference. Shura Council does nothing but is window dressing and Congress can actually make an impact on day to day life in the USA. See the difference. I suspect that more and more women will be entering the poltical arena in the near future in the USA. Remember the USA is still a highly religious country and even if it is considered forward in some respects it is backwards still in religion and still there is a belief by the majority in foo foo fairytale make believe nonsense. However, those numbers are starting to dwindle. Can’t wait until the belief in pink flying elephants and other nonsense in fairytale quacker is less then 50%.

  18. Members of the Shura council are doing more for their private businesses than they can ever do for the people whose interest they should be representing.

    It’s a rubberstamping agency no more or less. In fact, their esistence is designed to legitimize an unilligitimate system. Adding women to the powerless group will only make the system look nice on the expense of the severely disenfanchized people.

  19. @Snowman, no problem. Keep those cool comments coming.

  20. Ali I second that. It’s def. a media stunt

  21. Well, considering that history is written by the victor, there are very limited sources available today. There is one I read a long time ago for a controversial Saudi historian I forgot his name, and another by an orientalist. Saudi had and does have a Machiavellian approach to everything in politics. I’m in Jeddah

  22. @NN loool @ shurba council

  23. Be safe. They read the Prince, but misunderstood its metaphorical meaning. What’s really sad and very dangerous is the system’s continual assumption that the people are uninformed and incapable of seeing and understanding the obvious.

  24. You’re right. In high context societies in general there is an implicit assumption that the society is monolithic; has the same beliefs, and share the same traditions, and belong to the same ethnicity. That’s why we’re not used to having any form of discourse or dialogue. We never had to bother in the past, and we trusted in our elders’ wisdom out of good-will (and sometimes ignorance and naivety). But the time has come to be able to criticize and refute. 🙂

  25. Thuraya Obaid, an executive director of the U.N. Development Program for 10 years and regarded as the first Arab woman to hold a U.N. post, was one of the newly-appointed councilwomen. Another was Saudi writer and poet Thuraya Al Arrayed, who is well known for her journalistic skills. She is an active advisor to various NGOs in Saudi Arabia and the Arab region. Also, Khawlah Al Krie is one of the kingdom’s leading scientist researchers on cancer in the King Faisal specialist hospital. She was granted the King Faisal medal and was previously chosen to be Al Arabiya’s person of the year. Dr. Salwa Al-Hazza ia professor of medicine at the University of Al Faisal. She is president and consultant of eye surgery and diseases as well as the senior scientist and consultant of genetics at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center. Al-Hazza is considered to be the first women to take part in King Faisal’s Hospital council of consultants. After the historical decree, Saudi women are now relying on their fellow female council members to fight on behalf of the kingdom’s women and to obtain their complete citizenship rights.

  26. Women will be allocated a 20 percent quota in the consultative council, which is appointed by the king to advise him on policy but cannot legislate. The 30 chosen women include university graduates, human rights activists and two princesses. Also among them is Thuraya Obaid, a veteran UN administrator who served notably as executive director of the UN Development Programme and undersecretary general of the world body.

  27. ‘Prostitutes’: Saudi cleric insults recently-appointed female Shura members. A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council.

    Derogatory terms such as “prostitutes” and “the filth of society” were used to describe the highly-achieved female academics and technocrats who were only sworn into the Council a few days after a highly-acclaimed Royal Decree was issued by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

  28. Salaam alaikhoum.. These women are well known in there respective fields, so to start off with they are “out there” in public!. As I understand it, if a women wants to work she has to get the permission of her husband to do so – which leads in turn to the fact that their husbands have given them permission to do so. So why has this cleric used these demeaning terms with regard to them? Is he against the fact that they now have a say in regards to running the country (even though, due to their senior positions in there respective jobs, they have a real say regarding decisions to do with there jobs)?; or is it more a fact that he believes women should be “invisible nobodies”, despite the fact that women played prominent roles in the time of the prophet (peace be upon him) and in the times of the “right minded caliphs”!? Maasalaama

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