Women Take Their Place In Kuwait's Parliament

Aseel al-Awadhi i i

hide captionAseel al-Awadhi addresses supporters in Kuwait City after becoming one of four women to win a seat in the country's parliament. It's the first time women have been allowed to serve as lawmakers in the conservative Muslim emirate.

Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images
Aseel al-Awadhi

Aseel al-Awadhi addresses supporters in Kuwait City after becoming one of four women to win a seat in the country's parliament. It's the first time women have been allowed to serve as lawmakers in the conservative Muslim emirate.

Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images

Aseel al-Awadhi says her victory in last weekend's parliamentary election in Kuwait is just one part of "a great change."

Awadhi, a philosophy professor at Kuwait University, is one of four women who won seats in Kuwait's 50-member parliament — marking the first time that women in the emirate have ever been chosen to serve as lawmakers.

Awadhi and the other female candidates faced strong opposition from Sunni Islamist politicians. She told NPR's Michele Norris that her religiously conservative opponents accused her of being an "infidel" during the campaign and used dirty tricks in an effort to defeat her.

The U.S.-educated professor said opponents recorded her university lectures and cut and pasted parts of them together to give the impression that she was opposed to Islamic Sharia law. "They created a very intense propaganda campaign, and a very negative one," she said.

Awadhi says her victory and that of her female colleagues comes as part of a broader victory for moderates. Religious fundamentalists lost seats in the elections, while liberals picked up some.

"Women's voices can now be heard," Awadhi says, adding that the next step for her would be to attack Kuwaiti laws that do not treat women equally. Women didn't gain the right to vote or run for office in Kuwait until 2005.

The election that propelled Kuwait's first female lawmakers into office was called by Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who dissolved the previous parliament after lawmakers reached a political impasse with the government.

It was the third deadlock between the government and parliament in three years. Some analysts say the victory of more moderate candidates reflects public impatience with political squabbling.

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