Saudi Women Earn Voting Rights

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Saudi women hold up their national flag as they watch the official opening ceremony of the Gulf Cup at the 22 May Stadium in the southern city of Aden on November 22, 2010 as Yemen gets ready to host the football tournament amid tight security.

Better late than never. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah announced Sunday that women can now vote and run in municipal elections, the only polls in the conservative Gulf state. He also said that women can now join the Shura Council, a consultative body to which he appoints members. The changes would go into effect by the next election cycle, in 2015. “Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with Sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulama and others ... to involve women," the king said in a speech kicking off a new term of the council. Women are still barred from traveling, working, or having medical operations without the permission of a male relative, and cannot drive.