The following are excerpts from an interview with Kuwaiti MP Dr. Walid Al-Tabtabai, aired by Dubai TV on April 29, 2005.
Interviewer: Kuwait is the first country in the region to have an elected parliament, civil liberties, and a free press. By the standard set by the Gulf countries, and even most Arab countries, Kuwaiti society is very open. How come women's rights have been delayed so much?
Dr. Walid Al-Tabtabai: Since the parliament has a lot of freedom and could even be called democratic, the so-called women's political rights have been delayed. If the Arab peoples had the opportunity to express their opinion, they would object to the woman being shoved into politics, into the democratic game, and into elections, because this is not appropriate to women's role in Arab societies. However, if the decision is imposed from above, like in some countries, such as Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman, it would be accepted, since the order would come from above. But if they leave it to the people or to public opinion, or even to the women would themselves, they would refuse to be shoved into politics.
The Kuwaiti woman has many opportunities and much freedom. She is appointed to many positions, and we have no problem with this.
Interviewer: What's your problem then?
Dr. Walid Al-Tabtabai: We are afraid that if women get the opportunity to vote, the elections would be run in an undisciplined manner.
Interviewer: So demand that the elections be run in a disciplined manner.
Dr. Walid Al-Tabtabai: We have no objection. The municipal elections will be held in two weeks, and we will set such a condition…
Interviewer: You mean you will separate men and women in voting.
Dr. Walid Al-Tabtabai: Yes, these are religious restrictions. If the government accepts this condition we will pass the bill granting women's suffrage.