Middle East

Saudis unveil first-ever girls council – but omit girls from event

2006 FILE photo of unidentified Saudi women walking along a suburban street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

2006 FILE photo of unidentified Saudi women walking along a suburban street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  (AP)

Note to self: if you’re trying to project your respect for females by showcasing a new girls council, make sure not to make the prominent image of that event an all-male one.

That’s the crime of omission that Saudi Arabia committed when it unveiled its inaugural girls’ council in the province of al-Qassim but failed to include a single female on a stage that had 13 men.

The female members of the Qassim Girls Council were in a separate room, according to BBC, and appeared on video.

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The Saudis had expected it to be a lauded moment of inclusiveness. Instead, it drew a backlash on social media.

“Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia the Qassim Girls Council meets again to discuss women’s issues. Too important for women to be involved obviously," wrote Jonathan Nicholas.

Another Twitter user, Sarah Abdallah, wrote: “Satire? Comedy? No. This is actually happening: The very first meeting of the first "Girls Council" in Saudi Arabia... with ZERO girls.”

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In Saudi Arabia, a state policy requires that women and men who are not related remain separated. So while the council does have female members, they were apparently not allowed on stage with the men.

Nonetheless, Saudi officials hailed it as a positive step forward.

"In the Qassim region, we look at women as sisters to men,” said the province’s governor, Prince Faisal bin Mishaal bin Saud, “and we feel a responsibility to open up more and more opportunities that will serve the work of women and girls.”

The governor’s wife, Princess Abir bint Salman, chairs the council.