The Dhow: A Weekly Newsletter from AGSIW

Between Popular Representation and the State: The Politics of Municipal Council Elections in the GCC
By Kristin Smith Diwan

The participation and election of women in Saudi Arabia’s December 2015 municipal elections have drawn international attention and assertions of progress for women’s empowerment in the Kingdom. Yet any assessment of the significance of this noteworthy milestone needs to consider the role of municipal councils and their contribution to political dynamics in Saudi Arabia, and in the Arab Gulf states more generally.
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Past Event
Women and Elections in Saudi Arabia
On December 12, municipal council elections were held for the third time in Saudi Arabia. The third round was the first in which women were included as voters and as candidates. Over 900 women contested for 2,100 seats around the Kingdom. Twenty one women were elected, including Rasha Hefzi, who joined the panel held at AGSIW on December 17 to discuss the elections and their impact on women. The inclusion of women in these elections was preceded by a decade of activism from various individuals and groups around the Kingdom, most notably the Baladi Initiative, which sought to achieve full participation of women in the municipal council through reintegration and raising awareness. Two of the panel’s participants were Baladi activists who drew upon their years of efforts to discuss the importance of the elections, their activism leading up to the elections, as well as the general situation of women’s rights in the Kingdom.
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The Bridge blog
What to Expect from Riyadh’s New Islamic Counterterrorism Alliance

By Hussein Ibish

The announcement on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia has taken the initiative to form a 34-member “Islamic military alliance” is, in theory at least, one of the most dramatic international counterterrorism moves in many years. The coming together of so many Muslim countries to combat terrorism — not only through military action, but also through “stopping the flow of funds” to violent radicals and “confronting the ideology of extremism” — ought to be enormously important.
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Market Watch
Small Victories for GCC Women: More Educated, More Unemployed

By Karen Young

This is a week of small victories for women in the Gulf. Women participated in municipal council elections in Saudi Arabia for the first time and won at least 17 of the 2,000 odd contested seats. More small victories are needed at a time where women’s participation in economic and political spheres could have an enormous impact in a region in conflict and facing economic downturn.
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Who Is a Muslim?

By Hussein Ibish

Donald J. Trump’s scandalous proposal that the United States bar entry to all Muslims — though he later clarified his view that American citizens and a few others might be allowed in — raises two fundamental but largely unaddressed questions: Who and what is a “Muslim”?
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Is Saudi Arabia building an ‘Islamic NATO?’

By Fahad Nazer

In Riyadh, shortly after midnight on Dec. 14, Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammed bin Salman surprised the world when he held a press conference — his first — in which he announced the formation of a new Islamic military coalition against terrorism. Predicated on the premise that Muslims have suffered more from terrorism than any other group, Mohammed argued that Islamic countries needed to transform the unilateral counterterrorism campaigns currently being carried out by more than 50 countries around the world into a collective effort to vanquish this “disease.”
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In the Media
AGSIW Senior Resident Scholar Karen Young spoke with Oren Dorell of USA Today regarding Congress' decision to end the oil export ban. Young noted, "We are not going to be in a position to move export markets considerably, or to compete with the exports of Saudi Arabia or Russia, for example. Lifting the ban may be good for oil companies in the U.S., and it could potentially be useful if U.S. producers chose to selectively export oil to allies in an event of crisis."
AGSIW non-resident fellow Fahad Nazer was quoted in an article for VOA News discussing the recent inclusion of women as both voters and candidates in the December 12 elections in Saudi Arabia. Nazer noted, "I happen to see the elections as a very important step in an ongoing reform process that began in earnest shortly after the 1990 Gulf War."
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