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Fundamentalists Call for Kuwaiti Women to Boycott Elections

Kuwaiti voters go to the polls for their parliamentary elections Saturday. Some Kuwaiti Islamic fundamentalists are urging women candidates and voters not to participate in politics, saying it is anti-Islamic. But others are dismissing this claim, saying it is politically motivated.

Aseel al-Awadi is running for a parliamentary seat. She is a university professor of philosophy at Kuwait University. She says it is time to see reform in Kuwait and no one is going to stop her from running for parliament.
"I think women have to have a seat in parliament," she said. "It is about time that women have a role in politics in general. Practically speaking women should have representation in parliament, this is one reason. Another reason is [that] I am capable of doing something different in parliament given my credentials."

But some members of Kuwait's Islamic Salafi political party have called for a boycott of women candidates on the grounds that public offices are reserved only for men according to their interpretation of Islam. Walid al-Tabtabaei is a Salafi political member who is a candidate in the elections. He says having women in positions of power goes against the teachings of Islam.

He says they are opposed to women being a member of parliament for religious reasons because all the prophets are men not women for good reason and Islam says the burden for office is too great for women.

According to The Kuwait Times, only 19 of the registered 282 candidates are women, down from the 28 who registered last year and 31 in 2006.

Kuwait gave women the right to vote and run for office in 2005. Kuwait's National Assembly was dissolved in March after tension between the legislative and executive powers. It is the third election in as many years.

Abdullah Mohammad al-Turaiji is running as an independent in the elections. He says fundamentalists are simply attacking female candidates because they are afraid of losing power.

He says these people are afraid of women because they are worried that they will get their position in the parliament. But he says he is sure that some women will get seats and he supports that. He says he wants the parliament to be more balanced.

Aseel al-Awadi agrees that the slurs against her and other female candidates are politically motivated.

"It is social and political reasons behind their attack on women, particularly me," she said. "So I think there is some threat on their political agenda by having some female candidates really doing good in this election and having chances to win."

Though no the female candidates have ever won a seat in Kuwait's parliament, Al-Awadi is not dissuaded. She says she is hoping to make history.