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Thu 17 Mar 2016 09:51 AM

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Female Saudi councillor resigns from Jeddah council

Lama Al Sulaiman reportedly replaced by male councillor Hasan Basfar on Monday

Female Saudi councillor resigns from Jeddah council

A prominent member of Jeddah’s municipal council has this week withdrawn from her post.

Lama Al Sulaiman, a British-educated biochemist and former vice-president of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, was among the first women to be appointed as municipal council members in the elections in December. She was elected in Jeddah along with 10 male members.

Last year’s municipal council elections in Saudi Arabia were groundbreaking because women could for the first time vote and stand as candidates.

Shortly before her appointment, Al Sulaiman said: “We have reached a point where a lot of us believe we need to progress, irrespective of sharia law. Everyone wants to improve their living standards.”

Local media reported this week she had been replaced by a male councillor.

Saudi Gazette quoted an unnamed source as saying: “The Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Abdullatif Al Asheikh, appointed Hasan Basfar as the new member of Jeddah Municipal Council [on Monday].

“Basfar received the highest votes after Al Sulaiman [in December]. His appointment has increased the ratio of men to women members of the council.”

The source continued: “Speculation was rife about Al Sulaiman’s withdrawal ever since the ministry instructed women members to sit in a separate room.

“Al Sulaiman expressed her disapproval to be treated as a special member because she is a woman.

”The newspaper said Al Sulaiman was interviewed this week by local media in Jeddah who sought an official statement from her on the speculation surrounding her departure from the council, but she declined to comment.

A representative for Al Sulaiman confirmed to Arabian Business that she had withdrawn from post but did not comment further on the reasons.

Adel Batati, head of Jeddah Municipal Council, said the council does not discriminate against women members and adheres to regulations set by the ministry.

Jeddah Municipal Council spokesman Saeed Al Zahrani told Saudi Gazette that Al Sulaiman would be a big loss to the council.

“She is a businesswoman and a woman of many [accomplishments]," he said. "She is a pioneering member of society occupying many positions and serving in many fields. Her membership was very valuable for the council and the development of the city.”

Arabian Business has contacted representatives the Jeddah Municipal Chamber for further comment.

Basfar said: “My goal is to serve my society. I will do my best to develop and improve my city. I will be representing Al Nahdha neighborhood in the council, and am in the Jeddah Municipal Council Municipal Centre’s Executive Committee.”