RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Two women were elected to a chamber of commerce in Jiddah, the first to win any such post in Saudi Arabia, where women are largely barred from political life, officials said Wednesday.
Lama al-Sulaiman and Nashwa Taher won seats on the Jiddah Trade and Industry Chamber, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The chamber's elections on Saturday and Sunday were the first polls in Saudi Arabia in which women could either vote or run for office. In the kingdom's first nationwide municipal elections this year, women could not vote or seek posts. Electoral officials said women might be allowed to vote in the 2009 municipal polls.
The Jiddah Trade and Industry Chamber had initially rejected the nomination of 10 women for its board of governors, but the government ordered it to allow female voters and candidates.
King Abdullah, who ascended to the throne in August, has said he wants to promote the status of women.
The two women will become members of an 18-member board that had previously been exclusively for men.
The move is a small but unprecedented step for Saudi Arabia, where women are heavily restricted. They may not drive a car, and a male guardian must give permission for women to travel abroad.