The Silencing of the Saudi Women

Yesterday in one of her first speeches as the nation’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paraphrased the 2003 words of President Bush: “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.” However, it seems that the Bush administration is perfectly content with matching the price of liberty against the price of foreign oil. Although Scott McClellan claims that President Bush “never hesitates to point out when countries can do more when it comes to human rights and religious tolerance,” the president has essentially kept silent on the Saudi decision to not allow women to vote in their upcoming elections.

Citing the organizational difficulties of allowing women to vote, the controversial Saudi government will not be permitting female citizens to vote even though not only do women “make up more than half the Saudi population,” but the laws give the right to vote to “citizens over 21 years of age, except military personnel.” President Bush’s response to this affront to basic human rights was inconsequential, as he essentially glossed it over in the recent State of the Union: “The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future.”


The president can demonstrate his commitment to freedom and liberty — words that he has been throwing around quite often as of late — by speaking out against the actions of the Saudi government, be it friend or foe. Yesterday, Secretary Rice herself declared, “[S]preading freedom in the Arab and Muslim worlds is also urgent work that cannot be deferred.” We can either spread democracy or peddle hypocrisy; we cannot do both.