Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia, a country known for hosting some of harshest restrictions on women's rights, elected women to public office for the first time in the country's history.
Historically, women have neither been able to vote nor run for office in Saudi Arabia, the result of a patriarchal society and strict Muslim values. That changed with this year's election cycle, when women were granted both rights—And they responded in overwhelming numbers.
An unbelievable 106,000 women out of 130,000 registered voters, or about 82 percent, came out to cast ballots, according to Refinery29. To put that in context, only 57.5 percent of registered voters in America turned out for the 2012 presidential elections, according Bipartisan Policy. And by comparison, only 44 percent of registered male voters in Saudi Arabia showed up to the weekend's elections.
According to Al Jazeera, at least 18 women were elected to office.
As Jiddah resident Sahar Hassan Nasief described it to the Associated Press, "I walked in and said, 'I've have never seen this before. Only in the movies.' It was a thrilling experience."
We don't need to highlight how huge and positive a feat this is, especially in a country where women are required to cover their bodies entirely, among other restrictions. As for the women who did turn out to vote, they couldn't even drive themselves there—Women are not allowed to operate vehicles or go out anywhere without a male chaperone.
We can only hope that this will start a major shift in policy that might begin to loosen the stranglehold on Saudi women's rights.