09/27/2016, 10.40
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Thousands of Saudi women signed a petition calling for an end to male protection

At least 14,000 women have joined the campaign, using their name. Many more have signed the initiative anonymously. The promoters are "very proud" of this support. Now they demand a response from authorities. But the campaign has met with resistance among some Saudi women who are in favor of protection.


Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Thousands of women in Saudi Arabia have signed a petition calling for an end to the system that demands male protection for a variety of activities, from marriage to simple movements outside the home. In Wahabbi kingdom, where there is a strict Sunni interpretation of Islam, women are not allowed to drive and must receive the consent of a man - father, husband, brother or son if widows – even to work or study.

At least 14 thousand women have joined the campaign and signed the document, which will be delivered to government leaders shortly. An initiative that has had great response on social media and gained more and more support, taking advantage of the progressive growth of the hashtag associated with the campaign.

Saudi activist Aziza Al-Yousef told the BBC she felt "very proud", but now answers from the authorities are required.

In July a hashtag appeared on Twitter in Arabic that translates to the phrase "Saudi women want to abolish the system of male guardianship" – and went viral after an article published by human rights NGOs on the subject. Saudi women – a nation where the use of social network and is widespread among women - have reposted comments, videos and articles calling for change. Bracelets have also appeared with the inscription "I am my own guardian”.

It is emphasized that 14 thousand women participating in the campaign have published their names in full, while there are many others that have signed the initiative anonymously.

This weekend, hundreds of women - some say up to 2500 - overwhelmed the office of the Saudi king with telegrams of support for the initiative. An answer that, according to activists, is "amazing and unprecedented."

However, the campaign has met with some resistance and opposition from women too. A Saudi group has launched a "counter-hashtag" which reads: "Male guardianship is in favor of the woman, not against her." Newspapers, opinion leaders and intellectuals of the Gulf Kingdom have published analysis, editorials and insights on the matter; not only in defense of guardianship, but there are also those who request its reform or better implementation.

The women are demanding that after having reached 21 years of age, they be "treated as adults" and "citizens with full rights."

In 2011, the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz gave women the right to elect their representatives and run for office (in future municipal elections in 2015). This came after a protest on social media asking for women the right to vote.

The king also authorised women to stay at hotels without a letter from a male guardian, making it easier for women to travel on business. He appointed the first female deputy minister, opened the first coeducational university and eliminated men from women’s underwear and perfume shops.

His successor, King Salman, who took over in January, has not rolled back the changes.

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