Women across Saudi Arabia marked a historic milestone on Saturday, both voting and running as candidates in government elections for the first time. At least 19 women won municipal council seats in Saudi Arabia's first ever election open to female voters and candidates, officials said Sunday, far exceeding expectations in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
The women who won hail from vastly different parts of the country, ranging from Saudi Arabia's largest city to a small village near Islam's holiest sites.
Al-Omar said 19 women won seats in 10 different regions, with results still to be announced in several more regions.
In the first announcement of a female winner, Salma bint Hizab al-Oteibi was elected in the holy city of Mecca, the official SPA news agency reported.
Another woman, Hanouf bint Mufrih bin Ayid al-Hazmi, won in the northwestern region of Jawf, SPA said, adding that neighbouring Tabuk elected two women.
In the east, Sanna Abdel Latif Hamam and Maasooma Abdel Mohsen al-Rida were elected in Ihsa province, SPA said.
Winners came from the south as well, with one woman elected in Jazan region, while two others including Lama al-Suleiman will join councils in Jeddah, the kingdom's second city, local election officials cited by SPA said.
Saudi Arabia's second largest and most cosmopolitan city, Jiddah, elected two women, as did one of the most conservative regions, Qassim.
The conservative capital of Riyadh saw the most women candidates win, with four elected. The Eastern Province, where minority Shiites are concentrated, saw three women elected.
Other women hailing from the kingdom's northernmost areas won, with two elected in Tabuk, and one in al-Jawf. Additionally, a woman won in Saudi Arabia's southern border area of Jizan and another won in al-Ahsa.
"Even if it was only one woman, we're really proud of that. Honestly, we weren't expecting anyone to win," said Sahar Hassan Nasief, a women's rights activist in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
But with 2,106 seats up for election, the 19 women will comprise less than one percent of Saudi Arabia's elected council membership.
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