WASHINGTON — In 2010, Ferial Masry, who was born in Saudi Arabia, lost her fourth bid for a seat in the California State Assembly. Believed to be the first Saudi- American to run for political office in United States history, Masry had campaigned on a progressive Democratic agenda in a staunchly Republican district.
As she had in 2004, 2006 and 2008, Masry supported public education, health care reform, affordable housing and open spaces.
“As an immigrant (I was born in Makkah, Saudi Arabia), I am thankful for the opportunities that this country has afforded me and I want to give back to my country,” she wrote in an online forum. “In particular, I want to help preserve the middle class life that is the backbone of America and our wonderful democracy.”
A naturalized US citizen, Masry left Saudi Arabia at age 10 to be educated in Egypt, where she graduated from the University of Cairo with a degree in journalism and met her husband, Waleed. After living in Africa and England, they immigrated to California in 1979, where she earned a master’s degree in school administration. She teaches American government at Cleveland High School in Los Angeles.
In an interview for ABC News’ “Person of the Week” in July 2004, Masry said the US Constitution inspired her. “It’s a very small document — 7,000 words, five pages — but what it had in it is something visionary and beautiful. It really emphasized not to put the power into one man or one group.”
In 2008, she published Running for All the Right Reasons: A Saudi-born Woman’s Pursuit of Democracy, which describes her life, her belief in the US democratic process and her dedication to community involvement.
Masry became active in politics when her son, who was in the National Guard, was called to serve in Iraq in a war she did not support. After her 2010 loss, she said she no longer would run for office but would stay involved in politics.
Masry’s candidacies stirred interest among the media in Middle East countries, where she is viewed as an authority on democracy as well as a role model for women. “I was the first woman ever to be on the cover of a Saudi magazine without a headscarf,” she told ABC News. — Agencies