Twitter campaign to stop first Saudi women's vote

By Deena Adel
BBC Monitoring

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, In male-dominated Saudi Arabia women live under severe restrictions

Conservative voices have been waging an online campaign to oppose the first-ever opportunity Saudi women will have to vote in December.

But they've been matched by social media users using sarcasm and wit to promote the cause of women.

Women will for the first time be able to stand for office as well as vote in municipal polls.

However, a group of conservative Saudis recently visited the country's Grand Mufti to urge him to intervene and "prevent" women's involvement in elections.

He turned down their request and said such "enemies of life" should be ignored.

A hashtag on social media provides a platform for those opposed to women's participation in elections. #The_danger_of_electing_a_woman_in_municipal_elections has been active for three months and has been used over 7,500 times in the past month.

Image source, Twitter
Image caption, A picture of the German chancellor has been widely circulated, with the words "Please say that again, I liked it"

But what started as an attempt to galvanize public opinion against the female vote was soon hijacked by pro-women's rights individuals with many using sarcasm to make their point.

'Dangerous, unacceptable'

The view that fielding women candidates "is dangerous and unacceptable," is widespread. It was expressed in a tweet by Saudi user @MohtasbTaif, which was retweeted over 110 times.

He also criticised Saudi Arabia's ratification of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2001. The treaty requires signatory countries to take action to end discrimination against women in all its forms.

Another Saudi user said the municipal council in its new form was "a gateway to implementing the Westernization project". "We demand that it be prevented," @ahmed5629 tweeted.

Some tweets expressed concern that women's participation in elections would threaten a woman's role in the family and ultimately "threaten the nation". User @1mosleh1 tweeted: "If you want to destroy a nation, you should destroy the family (the woman)."

Image source, Twitter
Image caption, Users have tweeted a screengrab of the Egyptian channel CBC showing successful women and a covered Saudi woman with the words: "I am shameful and deficient in intelligence and religion"

"Liberals don't care about municipal elections, all they care about is getting a woman out of her house, corrupting her and throwing her among men," said @saadhmd11 tweet which was was retweeted over 45 times.

Supportive Saudi men

It was not long before the hashtag was taken over by Saudi men and women who supported women's participation in elections.

Responding with sarcasm

In response to a tweet that claimed "a nation fails if their leader is a woman", user @Fanunx responded sarcastically: "So Britain and Germany failed, and the Arab states were victorious with their men." Her tweet was retweeted over 200 times.

Also popular was a photo (meme) of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel with the words "Please say that again, I liked it".

Several users also tweeted photos of successful women and politicians in response to those who were "degrading" women.

Overall, there appeared to be slightly more tweets supporting women's participation in the polls than ones expressing opposition.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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