BRUSSELS — Several countries and international organizations have commended King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for granting voting rights to Saudi women. They include the European Union, France, Germany and the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The United States, Britain and Bahrain had already lauded the granting of voting rights to Saudi women describing the move as an important milestone in the history of the Kingdom.
In his address to the Shoura Council Sunday, King Abdullah gave Saudi women the right to vote and run in municipal elections as well as the right to be appointed as full members of the Shoura Council.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the decision is an important step forward.
In a press statement Monday, Michael Mann, a spokesman for Ashton, stressed the importance of all countries in the world supporting women’s participation in parliamentary life.
In Berlin, Stephen Seibert, government spokesman, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the decision and considered it an important step toward the many reforms in the Kingdom under the leadership of King Abdullah.
France described the decision as great progress for the Saudi society.
Bernard Valero, spokesman of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said his country welcomed the decision, adding that it falls within the framework of reforms witnessed by Saudi society.
In Geneva, Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, commended the decision as historic.
Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, Lebanon’s Mufti, described it as a royal decision in line with the rulings of Islamic law.
In a statement issued in Beirut, Qabbani said that the Islamic law’s rulings preserve women’s rights and dignity.
The Human Rights Watch also welcomed the decision, while noting that it came too late to allow women to take part in Thursday’s polls.
“King Abdullah’s promise that women will finally be allowed to vote is a welcome move,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. — SG/Agencies