At least seventeen Saudi female politicians win council seats in the country's first ever election open to female voters and candidates
Saudi Arabia has elected seventeen female politicians to municipal councils in a historic election that allowed women to vote and run as candidates for the first time.
"When I was told that I won, I cried with joy, the happiness of any human being who gets something for the first time," Salma bint Hazab al-Otaibi, who won a seat in the Madrika district of Mecca, told the Daily Telegraph.
"My husband worried about me - he worried I would be upset if I lost," said Mrs Otaibi, a teacher with two sons. "But I have trust in God and those who voted for me."
The election marked an important step forward in a country where women are banned from driving and are legally dependent on a male relative for most decisions.
Under King Abdullah, who died in January and who announced in 2011 that women would be able to vote in this election, steps were taken for women to have a bigger public role, sending more of them to university and encouraging female employment.
However, the quest for gender equality in Saudi Arabia is likely to be limited due to a wider lack of democracy and continued social conservatism.
Before King Abdullah announced women would take part in this year's elections, the country's Grand Mufti, its most senior religious figure, described women's involvement in politics as "opening the door to evil".
Mrs Otaibi said her husband welcomed the decision to run for office - but she faced a number of obstacles to participate.
More than 900 women were among 6,440 candidates running for seats on 284 councils. But female candidates could not meet face-to-face with male voters during campaigning, and neither men nor women could publish their pictures.
Mrs Otaibi said about 90 per cent of women in her district didn't have identity cards, meaning they were unable to vote. Many with identity cards were then refused permission to vote by their husbands or brothers.
As a result of similar restrictions, women accounted for less than 10 per cent of registered voters.
According to election commission data, nearly 1.5 million people registered to vote, including about 119,000 women, out of a total Saudi population of almost 21 million.
Huda al-Jeraisy, who as the daughter of a former head of the chamber of commerce in the conservative central part of the kingdom was seen by some Saudis as imparting an official stamp of approval on women's candidature, won a seat in Riyadh.
Lama bint Abdulaziz al-Sulaiman, Rasha Hafza, Sana Abdulatif Abdulwahab al-Hamam and Massoumeh al-Reda won seats in Jeddah.
In northern Saudi Arabia, Hanouf bint Mufreh bin Ayad al-Hazimi won a seat in al-Jawf, Mina Salman Saeed al-Omairi and Fadhila Afnan Muslim al-Attawi both won seats in the Northern Borders province.
Two women won seats in al-Ahsa in Eastern Province, but their names were not immediately released. Elsewhere in the province, Khadra al-Mubarak won a seat in Qatif district. In the southern Jazan province, Aisha bint Hamoud Ali Bakri won a seat.
In Qassim, traditionally the most conservative part of the country, two women were elected but their names were not immediately released. Another was elected in al-Babtain district.
The election was for only two thirds of seats in municipal councils that have no lawmaking or national powers. None the less, said Maha Munif, executive director of family safety in Saudi Arabia: "This is a big step toward the rights of the Saudi woman.
"This is a chance for the Saudi woman to prove herself. The next step should be appointing women in the cabinet.