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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Now a story about politics and change in Kuwait.

This past weekend, four women became the first women ever to win seats in Kuwait's National Assembly. That comes four years after Kuwait allowed women the right to vote.

We're going to talk with one of these women now. Her name is Aseel al-Awadhi. She was born and raised in Kuwait. She got a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. She's now a professor of philosophy at the University of Kuwait. And she joins us from her home in Kuwait City.

Welcome to the program and congratulations.

Dr. ASEEL AL-AWADHI (Professor of Philosophy, University of Kuwait): Thank you.

NORRIS: What was the reaction in your country to the election of four women to the National Assembly?

Dr. AL-AWADHI: Actually, the reaction was very positive. Everybody is so happy. You could feel a positive atmosphere in Kuwait. It's a great change.

NORRIS: You'd run for office before, you ran again this time and it sounds like you had a really difficult campaign. Why was it so much tougher the second time around?

Dr. AL-AWADHI: Because this time the first two polls on my district showed that I was ranked number one. And this kind of threatened some of the fundamentalists who are opposing the role of women in politics, and particularly speaking, having female representation in the parliament. So I was attacked by such groups. So that's why it made this campaign much more difficult than the last one.

NORRIS: When you say you were attacked by such groups, what happened? What did they do?

Dr. AL-AWADHI: Well, they taped actually some of my lectures at university and they put it on YouTube. And they created a propaganda over the Internet, saying that I'm against Sharia law and I'm against religion and, you know, stuff like that. So they created a very intense propaganda, a very negative one.

NORRIS: How do you see the parliament changing, particularly with the four women that will now be part of the National Assembly? How do you see it changing in terms of discussing laws, making laws, enforcing laws?

Dr. AL-AWADHI: Actually, I expect dramatic change not because only four women had one seat in the parliament, but because there are new members who are moderate, not fundamentalists, who can promote the voice of reason inside the parliament. And that's my change, the way we handle issues inside the parliament. I'm very optimistic this time.

NORRIS: It is believed that when women are part of the discussion, that they bring a different perspective to the political discussion. What will this mean for the women of Kuwait?

Dr. AL-AWADHI: It means a lot, because over 40 years, there were no women representation in making laws. And women are very happy now that they have representations in the parliament. So their voice can be heard when discussing laws and go over some laws that are not fair for a woman.

You know, one of our slogan is treating men and women equally, especially in their civil rights. And many laws that we have in Kuwait do not treat women as equal as men in their civil rights. So we're going to look into that and women are very happy in Kuwait.

NORRIS: Well, Dr. al-Awadhi, thank you very much for speaking with us.

Dr. AL-AWADHI: You are very welcome. Thank you.

NORRIS: We've been speaking with Aseel al-Awadhi. She's one of four newly-elected members to the Kuwaiti parliament.

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