Commentary | A Giant Leap for Saudi Women – Mulhim

Published: January 12, 2013

Editor’s Note:

SUSRIS periodically shares perspectives from columnists in Saudi Arabia and around the Gulf. Here today for your consideration is today’s column by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim who writes regularly for Arab News. His commentary helps put in perspective yesterday’s announcement that 30 women would be joining the next term of the Majlis Ash-Shura, the consultative assembly, of Saudi Arabia.


A Giant Leap for Saudi Women
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Last year Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah issued a royal decree that gave the Saudi women the right to vote in the municipal elections. Maybe that was a small step for Saudi women, but we knew it was a prelude to a giant leap for Saudi Arabia and Saudi women.

On Sept. 22, 2012 I wrote an article titled “Saudi women and their remarkable achievements.” In the article, I mentioned few names of Saudi women who served the country in many ways. After the article was published in Arab News, I received a number of e-mails from many parts of the world inquiring about one of the names of the women I mentioned in the article. This woman’s name is Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman Al-Saud.

Princess Noura was born in 1875 and was the sister of the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She was one of the aunts of Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman. People at the time called her the woman who had the brain of 40 men.

She was the most influential figure not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the whole region. This shows Saudi women were active and influenced the Saudi political and social scene years ago. Saudi women did not and still do not talk about their achievements. Their achievements speak on their behalf.

Majlis Ash Shura Chamber (Photo: SUSRIS)

On Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, King Abdullah issued a historic royal decree to appoint 30 women to the Saudi Majlis Ash-Shoura (Consultative Council) which consists of 150 members. This means women will hold 20 percent of the Majlis seats. The women picked for the posts are highly educated and have been very active in Saudi social and economic life long before their assignments. These women represent every thread of society and every part of the Kingdom.

Two of the women are from the Saudi royal family. The first is Princess Sarah, who is the daughter of the late King Faisal (1964-1975). The second is Princess Modi, who is the daughter of the late King Khaled (1975-1982). For the information of the readers, there are no princes in the Majlis Al-Shoura. I have seen the names of the others and they all have high credentials. Many have graduated from the best schools in the world. After the royal decree was announced, there was widespread joy in every city and town in the Kingdom. Young and old were talking happily about the news. Twitter was abuzz with the issue.

The decisions taken by the Majlis Ash-Shoura have had a very positive impact on the daily lives of every Saudi citizen. All government decisions are studied by the Majlis and then passed on to higher authorities for implementation. We, Saudis, weren’t surprised by the step but many expected the number would be about 10. Saudi women are lucky. They have our king and the crown prince on their side.

Saudi Arabia is now moving ahead with many reforms including the issue of Saudi women. We are taking sure and measured steps. Saudi women have achieved in a very short time what many have struggled to achieve in a longer and more painful way. Saudi women did it quietly and with certainty.

Nowadays we see young Saudi women attending the most prestigious schools in the world. There are tens of thousands attending the best universities and medical institutes in the United States, the United Kingdom and many other places. Tens of thousands of women are part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Scholarship Program. The number of highly qualified women doctors has surpassed many of the countries that started educating their women a long time before Saudi Arabia. And the beautiful thing is that Saudi women have achieved all this while still holding on to their cultural heritage.

Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman is going ahead with many reforms that will benefit everyone. Saudi women are working hand-in-hand with Saudi men to run the country. Saudi women are clearly taking giant steps in this regard.

I would like to congratulate every Saudi woman assigned to the Majlis Ash-Shoura and wish them good luck. I urge all Saudis to have faith in their ability to contribute to the development of the country we love … the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

— Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is a Commodore (Retired), Royal Saudi Navy. He is a frequent contributor to SUSRIS. He can be contacted at:

Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally published in Arab News on January 12, 2013.

Also by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim: