"60 MINUTES" FINDS RARE VOICES OF DISSENT INSIDE
SAUDI ARABIA WHO CALL FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS
IN THE ISLAMIC KINGDOM -- SUNDAY ON CBS
One woman wants to vote. Another wants to drive a car. A university professor says they should have that right. But all three live in the conservative Islamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia where woman can't drive or vote and to express those desires publicly is rare. Ed Bradley speaks to Saudis about women's rights and reform in an unusual report from Saudi Arabia to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, March 27 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Recent pressure on Saudi ruler Crown Prince Abdullah and his royal family has led to the country's first national elections ever. Dr. Maha Munif doesn't think it was fair that she was prohibited from voting in the elections for municipal council members. "However, the by-laws are still saying that 'citizens should vote' and the word citizen means men and women together," she tells Bradley. "[Authorities] just say that we will delay it to the next term when the country is more ready for women to enter into this election."
Another Saudi woman thinks women are ready to drive right now. After seeing a 60 MINUTES cameraperson filming in public, she approached and asked her to follow her into the ladies room, where she removed her veil and said, "I want -- I like to drive. Here the woman cannot drive. And I like here to have a cinema�a movie," she complains. Saudi women must get permission from male relatives to go to a theater and, as in all public gatherings in the kingdom, would sit separately from men. "I like to be free. All people want to be free," says the woman, who asked to have her identity withheld.
King Saud University Professor Khalid al Dakheel echoes that sentiment. "The most important change that must take place is to allow for the freedom of expression, for the diversity of this society to express itself freely," he says. He lost his newspaper column because, he says, "this government does not like you to be so daring," he tells Bradley. Al Dakheel says he was too reform-minded and questioned authority too much. He has argued for women's rights.
"There is nothing in Islam against woman and men being equal," says Dakheel. "Woman must be given the right to drive�There is nothing against women driving," he says.
Saudi Arabia's minister of Islamic affairs sees the issue differently. "The circumstances of women here in Saudi Arabia is a mix of tribal, social and historical circumstances�religion too," Dr. Saleh al Sheikh tells Bradley. "Women do have rights, but they are based on our view of their obligation in life." Foremost among those obligations is raising a family, says al Sheikh.
Women's obligations were the subject of an unprecedented public discussion in the kingdom attended by men and women -- in separate rooms. Says Prof. Dakheel, who attended, "Some women were for segregation, and other women were demanding desegregation," he says. "So what you have here is really something boiling in this society," he tells Bradley.