Without a man’s approval, she has no right to travel; not by legal declaration, not by religious mandate, but by pervasive de facto ban, she has no right to drive. And because nine million women with her face that battle for voting rights, Rania Olayan, 47, was driven by her brother, with her father’s permission, to Polling Center #39 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government had just announced the second nationwide, municipal election in its history – a concerted effort on the heels of mounting unrest in neighboring countries. But the State did not relent in its campaign against women’s suffrage. Waging a successful war in the 2004 election, the government this year is continuing its affront, banning women’s right to run; prohibiting women’s right to vote.
Ms. Olayan parked at the Alfarazdaq Elementary, a boy’s school, knowing that two women had been arrested for protesting in Dammam the day before.
“My heart was pumping. I did not know what to expect,” Ms. Olayan reported on the Saudi Women Revolution (SWR) Facebook page, an online movement organized by Nuha al Sulaiman, a 28-year-old businesswoman in Saudi Arabia.
An historic first-step toward women taking the September vote was orchestrated through SWR. Ms. Olayan, who happen to be in Saudi Arabia at the time, arranged with other Saudi women to meet at 6:30 in the evening on the 24th of April, at the polling center in Riyadh, to attempt to register to vote.
“Today was special,” she wrote. As cars started pulling-up beside her, Ms. Olayan was nervous until she saw “the ladies in black.”
“I did not know any of them, but somehow, I felt safe. I shook hands, and introduced myself.” There were twelve women total…