03/07/2005, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA – INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
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Saudi princess wants equal rights for women

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Saudi Princess Sarah said that the government and the royal family will have to deal with the issue of women's rights. "The government must open its eyes to the new situation," said the daughter of Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz, King Fahd's half brother. "It must acknowledge that women constitute half of the population and that they have rights."

In her view, men and women should have the same rights in matter of divorce, business and education. It is also important that their rights should extend to the political field.

Under current laws, Saudi women cannot travel without their male tutors' written permission.

Even a simple identity card can be a problem. Although Saudi women were granted the right to have their own card two years ago, they still need men to apply for them.

Suzanne al-Ghanem, director of a women's rights NGO in Riyadh, said the question of the status of women is a crucial issue in the Kingdom. "I have always had to follow a man, whatever my age. Now I want to exist as a human being".

Saudi Arabia applies a very rigid form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, named after Muhammad bin Abdul al-Wahhab, an 18th century religious scholar whose interpretation of the Qu'ran excludes any recognition of women's rights.

Something is however afoot in the Kingdom of the Saud. For the first time women might join the country's Foreign Service. In fact, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal revealed plans to appoint 36 women to key posts.

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