Saudi king grants women seats on advisory council for first time

Saudi Arabia's king grants women seats on the country's top advisory council for first time Friday, giving them a long-awaited toehold in the ultra-conservative kingdom's male-dominated political system.

King Abdullah's decrees come against the backdrop of heavy restrictions on women who are not allowed to travel, work, study abroad, marry, get divorced or gain admittance to a public hospital without permission from a male guardian.

Recently, airport authorities were instructed to send text messages to the phones of male guardians — husbands, fathers or brothers — with information about the movements of their wives, daughters or sisters.

"Men can finally respect women when they see them playing a (traditional) male role," said Wajeha al-Hawidar, a prominent female activist.

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