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Women Of The Holy Kingdom -

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Good evening. The 15 British sailors

released by Iran have touched down

London. After a surprisingly released by Iran have touched down in

farewell in Tehran, they took a London. After a surprisingly friendly

commercial flight home to the UK.

plane's business class section was commercial flight home to the UK. The

cleared for their use. They're now

been transferred to military

helicopters to be flown to a Royal

Air Force base in south-western

England, where they'll be reunited

with their families. But joy at the

sailors' homecoming has quickly

turned to sorrow in Britain, with

news that four soldiers and their

interpreter have died in Iraq. They

were killed in a roadside bomb-blast

near the southern city of Basra.

Another soldier was seriously

wounded. British Prime Minister Tony

Blair says it shows the ugly reality

of terrorism in the region. A

Australian officer charged with of terrorism in the region. A serving

stealing rocket launchers from the

Defence Force has been refused bail.

46-year-old captain Shane Della

Vidova was today charged with 10

counts of supplying prohibited

weapons. Federal Police allege he

sold the rocket launchers for

thousands of dollars each and at

least some ended up in the hands of

terrorism suspect. A former officer least some ended up in the hands of a

was also charged and refused bail.

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10:30. for more news join 'Lateline' at for more news join 'Lateline' at 10: fine in the other capital cities. And

Saudi Arabia. In just 50 yrs, community into a world power. it has evolved from a tribal having mobile chips You have Saudis riding BMWs,

in a tent. but his mind is still of someone cultural development. We didn't go through it is a society shrouded in secrecy To most of the world

just to leave their homes. where women need permission

Saudi women are playing a vital role The real secret is that in the country's reform. But is equality possible Muslim country in the world? in the most conservative Saudi Arabia Our camera takes you inside the women of the Holy Kingdom. for an unprecedented look at in transition Saudi Arabia is a kingdom and the 21st century. caught between tribal traditions On one hand, of oil, a modern power. it is the world's largest producer most conservative Muslim nation On the other, it is the world's mired in 13th-century ideals. (Call to prayer) It is the birthplace of Islam sites for Muslims, and site for the two most sacred Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia since 1933. The royal family of Saud has ruled as its constitution The monarchy uses the Koran clerics when passing new laws. and seeks guidance from religious (Chants) My name is Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.

Although I am Muslim, Islamic society in Pakistan. I was raised in a progressive traditions of Islam and modern life I have witnessed a clash between the in my own country was adopting these changes. and I wanted to see how Saudi society has been implementing reforms, In recent years the royal family improving the educational system experimenting with democracy, and granting more rights to women. and even many Saudi citizens But the religious clerics to accept these changes. have been hesitant For me, the changing role of women to examine the conflict provided the most dramatic way religious clerics in Saudi Arabia. between the royal family and the I would need to wear the abaya, In order to film, and part of the face a black garment covering the body a male chaperon and I would have to be escorted by provided by the government. (Sighs) in Saudi Arabia that I'm free. This is the only place of my hotel room, I feel free within the four walls in this black abaya otherwise I have to walk around

to the world. and just pretend that I'm invisible I experienced first hand Later that evening, placed on Saudi women. the restrictions ..and a tomato basil soup. Thank you. restaurants in this hotel, Even though there are several we as women only have two options - or we can go down to the coffee shop either we can order room service are off to women. because all the other restaurants I saw evidence of change. The following morning Saudi women were forbidden Just five years ago from holding manufacturing jobs. 6% of the workforce, Today, although they count for only all across the kingdom. women are working in factories 22-year-old Hadija was confident more opportunities in the future. that Saudi women would get (Speaks Arabic) Beyond the workplace closer to home. these women hope to have an impact for your daughter What rights do you want when you were growing up? that you didn't have

to work in Saudi Arabia right now? Do you think it's important for women When you started this project, or from the male-dominant society? from the Government When we started the project from government officials, we got a lot of support the permissions to start. otherwise we wouldn't have in women's ability The belief of businessmen to start the project. was the initiative We didn't really face any problems. who will doubt the experiment There are sometimes people something significant but it wasn't really

in starting the project, no. that was an obstacle taking the first steps I was encouraged to see these women towards financial independence

but despite their new freedoms the strictest laws of Islam. women here are still held to the ward of her father. Legally, an unmarried adult woman is the ward of her husband A married woman is the ward of her sons. and a widowed woman is card, obtain a passport Women cannot get an identification permission from the male guardians. or be admitted to a hospital without in public, prohibited from driving, Women are segregated from men taught in separate schools restaurants and female-only stores. and restricted to family sections of at Starbucks. I stopped for some coffee from the outside Although it looked the same very different inside. Starbucks in Saudi Arabia was It's just amazing how contradictory society here is. I'm sitting in the Starbucks family section. Only women with their husbands, brothers or sons are allowed in here. The single men have a separate section. Yet when I go to buy my coffee I can buy it from a strange man. After coffee I headed t a conference organised by the Saudi government to discuss the role of women in Saudi society. Just a few years ago a conference like this would have been unthinkable Today the Government permits it even though the religious clerics do not approve. The conference was segregated. The 200 or so women who attended wore their abayas and refused to appear on camera. I was, however, able to film an interview with Dr Thuraya Arrayed. Dr Thuraya is a planning advisor to Aramco, the largest oil company in Saudi Arabia. How does it feel to be at a women's conference in Riyadh? For me personally, I am seeing the seeds planted 30 years ago in lectures and public-awareness speeches and television programs. Finally they are becoming the norm. It's becoming something in which you get 50 to 600 ladies attending and actually participating.

It's a wonderful experience. Very fulfilling. For me, it's very fulfilling.

Dr Thuraya believed that a more active role for women was necessary for Saudi society, especially in the workplace. Our population is one of the fastest growing in the world. The ratio between dependants, those who are still in school and not earning money and those who are breadwinners and earners, is huge. We have six dependants to each earner. How the you going to go on with that if you are also going to include women, who also can work? But Dr Thuraya also knew that any changes would have to adhere to Islamic tradition. We don't want to imitate the Western style but we want to take from it what's good, what's positive, what can work for us. We're not going to be mutilated versions of what's happening in Western society. I don't think either me or any of my colleagues want that. Women like Dr Thuraya are paving the way for the younger generation who want more of a voice in society.

But this is still a country where women need a man's permission for virtually everything and even an outside journalist had to be mindful of prevailing customs and the State's scrutiny. That evening, we were filming on the streets of Riyadh when the religious police arrived, officially known as the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Condemnation of Vice. This police force is an autonomous agency comprised of more than 3,500 officers plus thousands of volunteers. Its appointees have sweeping powers to arrest and detain anyone who does not adhere to the strict Islamic codes of dress and morality. This particular group accused an all-women camera crew of attracting male attention. They demanded to know why a television company had not sent a male crew instead and tried to confiscate our cameras and tapes. Our government chaperone promised that we would be more discreet in the future. They finally let us go. Our official paperwork was in order but the religious police still questioned our right to film. The tussle between the Government and the religious clerics was playing out right before my eyes. Saudi Arabia is a kingdom of contrasts. Desert villages still dependent on camels and kerosene sit just miles from shimmering cities and sparkling shopping malls. of Jeddah But even the modern port city of Islam. observes the most traditional rules for about a week now I've been in Saudi Arabia and I can't do anything on my own. check in to a hotel, I can't walk out on the streets, depend on a man for everything. I can't even drive a car. I have to has led to speculation This tradition of male dominance in Saudi Arabia that domestic abuse is common publicly, that is until 2004, but it has rarely been discussed a popular newscaster when Rania Al-Baz, viciously assaulted by her husband. appeared on TV shortly after being This was one of several recent events the Saudi women's rights movement. that brought attention to Rania Al-Baz was ultimately granted a divorce. It is now estimated that as many as 50% of Saudi marriages end in divorce OK. A lot of the women that we have interviewed

don't want to show their faces, so that's fine.

I had hoped to interview a divorced woman but most were afraid to speak with me. After a day on the phone I was able to arrange an interview. The woman requested that we obscure her face. that he's the divorced guy. You never hear a person say

it's always a divorced woman. I mean, in this negative way. We should be looking at it arranged by her parents. Naimah's marriage was and quickly discovered She married at age 17 her husband was looking for. she was not the kind of wife and taking care of my son I was cooking and cleaning the house and trying to please him and I'm sure I was doing a good job he was never satisfied but he was always complaining, which I couldn't deal with. from studying and working, and he wanted to stop me with my life. I felt like I need to do something it was so difficult for me to go on. But after eight years The environment is just not healthy for me any more. So I've decided to get a divorce.

Why did it take you so long to get a divorce? Well, at first I was really scared to go against everybody's will, to decide to have a divorce by myself because here, you know, we're not used to speaking for ourselves, taking decisions for ourselves. People usually do that for you, especially males -

your husband. your father, your brother, allows women to divorce Even though Islam for them to do so. Saudi law makes it very difficult In this case Naimah's father, at the time of divorce, who was her legal guardian of her young son to her ex-husband, forced her to give custody a common arrangement in Saudi Arabia.

he was so furious at that time My father, "You have to give him up." that he said to stay with my husband. He was trying to pressure me It wasn't an easy decision for me. blood. and I feel that he needs me. He's my son, he's my own flesh and But at the same time I thank God that he's healthy, he's OK, he's safe, he goes to school, he talks to me. I don't know. It's not easy. I'm a mother, he's my child, he's part of me. When he calls me, when he's sick, when I know that he's not OK, I don't feel OK. But I say "This is the way God wants it to be so let it be." He going to grow up and he's going to understand and he's going to come back to me. Do you want to take a break for a minute? No, it's OK. about Saudi women here If you we're to change one thing what would it be? and the situation they are in, to speak for themselves It would be to encourage them for anybody, and not to accept an situation for her own good, for her own will. to do whatever it takes implements reforms, As the Saud government women's issues more openly the press is discussing the Government so control is tight. but the media outlets are owned by very surprising place Still, there is one are being presented. where these issues shown on state-owned Saudi television 'Tash Ma Tash' is a comedy series the program openly addresses the conflicts between traditional Saudi rules and modern society. In this sketch, a woman with no husband must rely on her elderly father who sees every male as a threat to his daughter. Hi. This is Sharmin. Our director. Nice to meet you. He start editing for 'Tash Ma Tash'. (Characters speak in Arabic) He said "Ladies and gentlemen..." He said "No ladies, no ladies." "Oh! Sorry." 'Tash Ma Tash' has a cult following

when it is on the air. and the streets empty (Speaks Arabic) has embraced the show The Saudi royal family by allowing the program to continue. and has openly defied the clergy (Speaks Arabic) the show stays on the air, Despite these challenges to social commentary. a slapstick approach home alone with no man in the house In this sketch a family is frightened by an intruder. OMINOUS MUSIC the women go outside, After calling the police to put on their abayas. not forgetting to confront the intruder The police go but never quite make it inside. Although the sketch is humorous the Saudi law that inspired it

was partly responsible for a recent tragedy. A fire in 2002 killed 15 young girls in their school when the religious police refused to let them exit the building

because they were not wearing their abayas and head coverings. Fifty more were injured. Despite recent attempts at reform some women remain faithful to their traditional Saudi beliefs. The female is not like a male. I believe that's so, They are not equal. not in any other place. not in this country, They are not equal at all. Suzan is a married mother of three a hospital administrator. and works as Like many Saudi women,

for everything Suzan asks her husband's permission at the corner store. including shopping for groceries women are weaker than men? Despite you think that in some way As you know, in our Islam it says a good judgment the female is not always can be because of many reasons. some hormonic changes One of that reasons that she has that not happen to the males. These changes could make you with stress sometimes, nervous. That of course affect your decisions. Of course. I was surprised to hear a view normally held by conservative men coming from a young working mother. I asked her whether she felt restricted living in such a closed society. I want to do anything I can do. I'm free to do anything. I have no problem with that.

Suzan told me that she left her job at a private hospital because its dress code was too liberal. run by the Government. Now she works at a hospital but I'm covering my face I work there for a while in private hospitals here in Jeddah. and that was not allowed for you to cover your face. It's not allowed That's why I stopped working there. I wrapped up by asking Suzan other women around the world. if she felt distanced from It's not this way. It's not this way at all. just as any female in the world. The truth is Saudi female is the most conservative Muslim clerics, Suzan's views were in line with

reform efforts in Saudi Arabia. the very people who were hindering where reform was seriously discussed. Yet I found there were places

Every week a group of men and women got together to talk about a wide variety of issues from the role of the Royal Family to the preservation of Saudi culture. They told me that the Government was monitoring their meetings and had already issued a warning to them to keep away from sensitive political issues.

Despite the progressive nature of this group the meeting was segregated - men sat on one side of the room and women sat behind a screen on the other. (Speaks Arabic) We had barely begun filming asked us to turn off our cameras. when the nervous host had objected to our presence. A few people at the gathering have been jailed for long periods. In the past, Saudi reformers to take that chance. Nobody at this gathering wanted The 1965 Saudi Security Law states requires a special government permit that any gathering of over 20 people and the law imposes severe penalties on those who oppose official policies, and criticise the Government. organise public protests honest discussion began. After we shut down our cameras The participants spoke about the imbalances in Saudi society and discussed ways in which they could help bring about change. Given such harsh restrictions, I wondered - how could real reform take place in the kingdom? We're very fortunate that we've been allowed to bring our camera in to the homes of these Bedouin women because they observe strict apartha

which is they do not come in front of cameras or in front of other men. They're still weaving carpets and practising traditional handicrafts.

They haven't adopted the ways that the people in the city have. they're not using any cars. They don't have any cell phones, I've come to realise to live like this for years to come. that these women are going The longer I remained in Saudi Arabia the modern world and Arab traditions. the more I felt the struggle between was committed to reform, Amidst this tension, the Royal Family establishing women's work centres programs for women. and funding substantial scholarship the reforms had just been announced. But the most surprising of In February 2005, allow the first nationwide elections the Royal Family would in its history. citizens choose local representatives These elections would let Saudi as electricity and water utilities. who would supervise roadways, as well But the rules were unclear - to run for office, or even vote? would women be allowed No official decision had been made but three women announced their candidacy. None of them were willing to speak with me on camera. The three women who are running for elections from all across the country are too scared to even show their photograph in the English-language newspaper here. That's why they've refused to speak with us.

They've got so many pressures on them, they're scared for their lives. Finally, be agreeing not to broadcast the documentary until after her campaign had ended, I was able to interview Nadia Bakhurji, the first woman to declare her candidacy. This was a first-prize winner. This was in a competition against other design offices so I was very proud to win first prize on that. That's a headquarter building for a local corporation. Nadia runs a highly respected architectural firm and her success is evidence of how far Saudi women have come in recent years. But there are still obstacles. Being a woman in a man's field, obviously there are certain restrictions. For example you on certain projects you miss out

because you can't be there networking with the client. You have to rely a lot on your reputation and word of mouth. Nadia is no stranger to confronting the traditions of Saudi society and to her the elections represented another challenge. You know that dining room where we have that large span?

Where is that?

The men are very positive, saying that it's about time that the ladies take initiative

and do something themselves. They feel that things will only move forward if women push them forward. Surprisingly, Nadia's biggest critics have been women. Not everybody is equipped to run for public office, whether they're male of female. It's a very personal thing. It's not just about public office. There different roles in life. There's all this misconception going about women being not capable of making wise decisions because they are affected by their... you know...

..sorry to say, their period once a month. Some guy made this statement which was like "Oh, my God." "How could he even say that in public?"

For somebody to generalise and say "Women can't do this, it doesn't suit their nature", I think that's grossly unfair and short-sighted. I don't think I'm going anything against my religion or my culture or my upbringing. If anything, I'm taking initiative, I'm taking a positive step forward. That should be commended. What would be your level of disappointment if you were told tomorrow that women aren't allowed to hold office? Well, after getting motivated and getting all this momentum going, I think I'd be pretty disappointed. Women like Nadia could change the future of Saudi Arabia but they needed Saudi men to support them. I was soon reminded how hard that could be. Later that evening we were filming on the streets of Jeddah when the Army arrived. CAR HORN TOOTS Two jeeps filled with soldiers surrounded us and demanded to know what we were doing.

Like the religious police, these soldiers had the ability to confiscate our footage and even arrest us. After thoroughly checking our papers they finally let us go. I later learned that members of the media were routinely stopped on the streets. Working under these conditions was frustrating and frightening. How did Saudi journalists do it? I had been following the debate about women's participation in the upcoming elections in the Arab news. The articles were written by Abeer Mishkhas, a female journalist. a journalist? It's such a hard job. Why did you choose to be have to interact with men quite a lot I would think that in a job where you that it would be hard to do. Sometimes when you need officials, to government places, when you need to go that's a bit difficult you being a journalist. but in general people are OK with by working in a male-dominated field Abeer has defied Saudi tradition and by not marrying.

a woman. I don't want to be treated as I remember telling them Since I came here, I'll be doing the same thing. "OK, I'll be working like you. "There's no difference." we were getting the same things. We were doing the same job, in me being different. There's no point I refused to be treated differently. Abeer's office, like all offices in the Kingdom, is segregated. Women use a separate entrance from men and only interact with their male colleagues by telephone and email. If the rules the violated, Saudi Arabia's religious police have the authority to shut down a business and arrest its workers. Recently the rules have been relaxed, allowing Abeer to work with her fellow male journalists. Still, she remained uncertain in the elections. about women's participation very clear. The whole situation is not very difficult I think it's going to be way they want to go for the Government to decide which some sort of conservative tide because they are always faced with in this society having women around. and those people aren't happy with that you'd get a strong backlash? Do you ever fear Not really. "How could you talk about this?" Sometimes my friends would say I wouldn't dream about writing But now, I can write about things two or three years ago. Abeer and others were taking the lead, creating awareness about women's issues with the hope that women across the kingdom would follow in their footsteps. After leaving Abeer's, I went to meet the director of the newly formed Human Rights Commission appointed the the Government to document human rights abuses in the kingdom and to educate Saudis about their rights as citizens. The Government had recently appointed several woman to the commission. I was hopeful that the commission would be able to shed some light rights in the upcoming elections on the controversy over women's sooner than I had expected. but the meeting was over of errors. When we got there, The whole thing was a comedy entrance because we were women, we couldn't go through the main a special entrance. so we had to go through refused to speak with us Then the deputy director about women's rights because he thought he couldn't speak as well as a woman could. who refused to be on camera They finally found a woman for us because it was against her religion. of Saudi women in society I could tell that the role for many people was an uncomfortable subject but if things were to change there needed to be a consistent dialogue and both men and women needed to take part. The role of women in Saudi society was changing. In a recent survey of 15,000 Saudis more than 90% of the respondents favoured granting more rights to women. Yet it was still unclear whether women would be allowed to run for office or even vote in the upcoming elections. The issue sparked a heated debate Hatoon Al-Fassi. and at the centre of it all was women show that we are organised, I'm very positive that once we as to take up the municipal issues, we know how and will make more space for women. then the State will yield the King Saud University in Riyadh. Hatoon is a professor of History at the women planning to run for office. She has been advising some of in Saudi Arabia before. The issue of women was not mentioned It wasn't recognised as an issue. Emancipation is a can bad word here. a Western image or a Western model It means that you're adopting in Saudi. and you want to implement it to mobilise the women's vote Hatoon's efforts so threatened conservative Saudi society that she had received death threats. But for Hatoon the elections were an important landmark in Saudi history and she was determined to include women. Men and women are, for the first time, equal in one kind of an experience. Men haven't experienced elections before so men and women are going through the same experience on the same level - nobody knows better than the other. ready for reform. Hatoon felt that the Kingdom was who is asking for reform, The State itself is the one or is presenting reform. So we're just replying to that. We're just...you see? the State is presenting. We're just being positive to what It's like answering and invitation. The election momentum was growing making their voices heard. and women like Hatoon were as I am Not everybody is as positive of Saudi women, but because I believe in the ability how determined they are, force ourselves to be recognised and that we can really

and acknowledged. that reform was possible Every time I saw sings I was reminded how far there was to go. The constant harassment worried me.

How could fair elections be held in a country where the media faced such restrictions? I visited Effat College, Saudi Arabia's leading women's college. Although the lives of Saudi women are highly restricted more than half of the country's graduates are women. I was curious to find out how these young women felt

in Saudi society. about their changing role that Saudi women can get in to. Right now, there are very few fields

and a few things They can be doctors and professors

but they can't do a lot of things can do. that women in other Muslim countries be able to bring that change? Are you going to

because they want to reflect I think yeah, are not oppressed. that the women of Saudi Arabia to wear the hijab They are not forced

or follow the culture. or follow a certain path Now is the opportunity. They want to prove that.

There is a slight change, I guess.

Now females can work in an international company. Like for example in the summer, me and my friends were working for a company called Unilever. There was a mixed environment. You need a man's permission to do virtually everything in this country,

study, work, travel, check into a hotel - anything and everything. How do you feel about that?

Do you not trust your judgment? I'm married right now and I don't mind these things. For example today I had to take my husband's approval for this thing

and it was good because

he knowing about what you are doing. it's not a permission as much as were ready for change, I realised that not all the students participating especially when it came to in the upcoming elections. then it's unfair. If we're not allowed to vote in the Western world, Even in the States,

women couldn't bot a long time ago. It just needs time. had a special case, Women all over the world not only in the Middle East. of the world took its time Every country, every part for that to change. I just want to add

greater in number than the males. that females in Saudi Arabia are So why can't they vote? They're more than half of the population. that you're a Saudi citizen?

Do you feel that you have the same rights a man does? Not equally but I would refer that to the culture.

Some people refuse to change. They're not comfortable with their females working outside or going out or doing things without their permission. Unfortunately it's in the culture, yeah. you will be amazed, if you made a study, these things. to see who doesn't like don't like to have these privileges. You will find a lot of women

more safe under these things. They feel more protected, and well educated. These young women were confident the kingdom's future. They represented But their attitudes revealed Saudi women were ambivalent that even the most educated about Western-style freedom. by consensus Saudi Arabia has always been ruled the country's religious clerics. between the royal family and In the last few years, however has become a political liability this arrangement for the Royal Family as the clerics remain unwilling to back the reforms necessary to lead the kingdom in the 21st century. As with everything else these religious clerics would have a say in the final decision about the women's role in the elections. Most Saudi clerics would not even sit in the same room as a woman

but Dr Ali Omar, one of Saudi Arabia's most influential clerics, agreed to speak with me. He recently delivered a paper highly critical of expanding women's role in Saudi society. (Speaks Arabic) From an outsider's point of view... about the role of women I asked him what he thought in an Islamic society. Dr Ali was quick to point out

from other Muslim countries. that Saudi Arabia was different a cell phone and a PalmPilot. Dr Ali had a modern office, But like millions of Saudis beliefs deeply rooted in the past. he was still tied to attitudes and Excuse. allowed to vote? Do you think that women should be run for office? What about having a woman and wanted to be elected? What if she wanted to run for office in the Kingdom With men like Dr Ali wielding power ever gain more rights. it seemed that Saudi women would The question lingered - would women be allowed to participate in the elections? My time in Saudi Arabia was coming to an end. I had spent four weeks exploring the women's movement in the Kingdom. Saudi women had taken enormous strides in the past few years but they still had a long way to go. Perhaps the upcoming elections would help change that. If women were given the opportunity to vote and run for office their influence would vastly increase. out on my last day in the Kingdom. But that was not to be, as I found finally announced The Saudi Government has to vote in the upcoming elections that women will not about allowed and they won't be able to hold office. They've been playing a cat-and-mouse game for the last two months. Women have been interested in voting and the momentum for them to run for office has been becoming stronger but finally the Saudi Government, without giving any reason, has decided that women will not be taking part in the upcoming elections at all. A thousand questions raced through my head - why had the Government let the momentum get so strong before making their decision? What part did the religious clerics play? How deep were the divisions? I hoped that Raid Qusti, the bureau chief of the 'Arab News', could help me understand what had happened. What would be the main objection by people

for women to vote and hold office? Two objections. The first objection would either be from a conservative person,

or an ultraconservative in that manner, saying that "Well, women should not really focus on these things now." "I mean, these things should be left for men." The other would be "Well, women have better things to do."

Raid didn't seem surprised by the outcome. I don't really see society ready at the time being for women to run for the elections. Things are slightly beginning to change but unfortunately even in our textbooks, our curricula, in our lifestyle, in our culture, we're still advocating that women should not be as men, meaning that they're created as women. That means that they belong, or they need to stay at home. Fine. Yet some Saudi men clearly support a woman's right to a political voice in society. I personally believe that they should vote because in the end of the day they are citizens. They have a right and that right is not only to vote

but as a citizen they have a right to run for that post. Raid explained the reformers' agenda to me. What we want is simple. We want women to be respected, we want women to have their rights. We want women to be active and take their roles as citizens of this country who have every right to be part of its development growth as they have done in the UAE, as they have done in Qatar,

as they have done in Egypt but they have not done here. I left Raid's wondering whether Saudi women would ever be treated as equal citizens. Did they want to be treated as equals? A local market provided some insight. Only two decades ago there were no supermarkets and fast-food chains. These markets were social and commercial centres. This market was not segregated. Men and women sold everything, from vegetables to straw hats, side by side. Though our crew was covered from head to toe in black, the women in the market objected to our cameras, calling us immoral for filming among men. It was a reminder that much of Saudi society does not support the wish to empower women. I made one last stop before heading to the airport - Abeer Mishkhas, the journalist for the 'Arab News', could put things in perspective for me. Do you think that some people are of the view that if they let women vote, then what will come next?

It's like, open a floodgate for women's rights. I think it's just... most men don't trust women. They don't think they have the brains to do something as good as men. That's a really big problem because...I don't know. Somehow we'll just have to prove them wrong.

Has the Government given any specific reasons as to why women cannot vote or hold office? The reasons given are more like technicalities - there are no spaces for women to go and give the votes, they don't have time to get IDs for all the women that want to participate. It's only technicalities and I think it can be solved if there's a willingness to include women. You wrote about the female candidates that want to run for elections. Have you spoken to them? Have you found out their level of disappointment? The thing is, they were ready. They had in mind that they might not be given that chance. They wanted to tell everybody "We're ready, we have good ideas and we're ready to go ahead with them. "If you give us the trust, we're ready to do some good work." Before leaving Abeer's, I asked her whether Saudi women really wanted change. There are more women who want to change things and they are becoming very bold in ski for change. There are other women who are very happy with the way their lives are. They think it's working so far and it's fine. And if they're lucky with their lives, OK, that's fine. But then for others who don't have the same lives, who want something else, who have ambitions,

I think the really need a chance to get things changed for them. From the introduction of the telephone to education for girls, no significant change in the Kingdom has ever happened without fierce resistance from the clerics. Reform is coming to Saudi Arabia, but slowly. The Royal Family must navigate carefully between the demands of the reformers and those of the hardliners while moving at a pace that cautious Saudis will accept. A new generation of educated Saudi women is coming of age. These young women represent the country's future and they are determined to make their voices heard. Closed Captions by CSI

Tonight - return of the

natives. 15 British military

hostages back on home soil

after being freed by the

Iranian president as an Easter

blift. Will the officers be

disciplined for cooperating

with Iranian propaganda? We

were seized apparently at this

point here which is inside

Iranian territorial waters.

Name rank and number used to be the tradition, yes. CC

Good evening, welcome to

Lateline, I'm todges. Just a

short time ago, the Australian

mining company Palladin

announced it had approval to go

ahead with a huge Iranian mine

in the African country of

Malawi. They've been given the

licence in spite of of a

campaign by local

environmentalists to stop the

mine going ahead. The site is

surrounded by mountains, the

rivers and streams flow into

Lake Malawi, Africa's third

largest fresh water lake. A

few hundred metres down the

hill is the community of

Kylelakera. Palladin would not

get approval in Australia. I

make no comment. Mud is the

name and I'll leave it at

that. Our special report on the

debate over Palladin's mine

which will be the largest

investment in the impoverished

country of Malawi. That's

coming up. The 15 British

sailors and Marines have

arrived home in the United

Kingdom. Screened live around

the world, their plane arrived

at Heathrow Airport. Amid

heavy security they were taken

to a military base for

debriefing. They had changed

from their Iranian-supplied

suits back into military

fatigues. The released

hostages are not expected to

make any statements until

tomorrow. Yesterday's

unexpected decision by Iran to

free the Britons was greeted by

joy and relief from the

families of the host ams. The

Prime Minister Tony Blair has

repeated no deal was done to secure their release. Stephanie Kennedy reports from

London. After their 13-day

ordeal, the 15 sailors and

Marines touched down on British

soil, much to the relief of

their families and the UK

Government. The dramatic

decision to free the British

crew was a PR coup for Tehran.

In a 90-minute press conference

broadcast live to the world,

Iran's berated the West and

detailed and wrong dogs of

Britain in the Middle East before decorating the

commanders who captured the

British Navy crew. Then the

big announcement that took the

world by surprise, the crew

would be pardoned, freed as an

Easter gift. TRANSLATION: Now

on the birthday of the great

fofet of Islam I announce that

the generous Iranian people and

the Republic of Iran could have

put them on trial but we authoritatively forgive these

people and offer their release

as a gift. I am asking Mr

Blair not to put them on trial

for admitting they came into

our territorial waters. In a

room nearby the British

captives were relieved to hear

of their imminent release. An

hour later and they were

presented to the Iranian. The

only woman captive FayeTearney

expressed relief to be going

home. The treatment here has

been great, but it will be nice

to get home to s my family. What message do you

have for the people? Thank you

for letting us go and we

apologise for our actions, but

many thanks for having it in

your hearts to let us go

free. What was the behaviour of

Iran during your

detention? They were fantastic,

we were well looked after and

well fed and watered the whole

way through. Do you have any

message for the? Thanks for

letting us go home. Back in the

UK the families of the sailors

and Marines were popping the

champagne corks. I couldn't

believe it. I thought it was

another mind game ploy by the

Iranians. Best Easter present

ever. The last couple of weeks

it's been very hard on my

aunty, uncle and grandparents,

very very hard for them. We're

a very close family and it's

just ecstatic news. Can't wait

for the party. The release of

the crew is a tense diplomatic

stand-off between the UK and

Iran. The British sailors and

Marines were seized by Iranian

forces as they searched for

smugglers off the Iranian

coast. Britain denied Iran's

claims the crew had strayed into Iranian waters. For the

UK this outcome is a victory.

The British Government took its

ground never creeding to Iran's

key demand to apologise. The