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Qatar appoints women to Shura Council for first time

Since crisis began, Doha has made several notable social policy concessions

By AFP - Nov 10,2017 - Last updated at Nov 10,2017

DOHA — Qatar has appointed women to one of its most important consultative bodies, the Shura Council, for the first time in the country's history, according to a royal decree announced on Thursday.

Four woman will sit on the 45-strong council, which is responsible for discussing draft laws approved by the Cabinet, general government policy and the state's draft budget, state media said.

"Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani issued an emiri decree renewing the membership of some Shura Council members and appointing 28 new members to include women for the first time in the history of the... council," said a statement on the Qatar News Agency.

The women appointed were named as Hessa Al Jaber, Aisha Yousef Al Mannai, Hind Abdul Rahman Al Muftah and Reem Al Mansoori.

"Women play an important role in national decision making in all fields," Muftah, who works at the Doha Institute for Postgraduate Studies, told AFP.

She added that this role covered government institutions and the "overall development process in the country".

The announcement comes as Qatar continues to deal with the impact of the worst and most bitter diplomatic crisis in the Gulf for years, which has seen the emirate politically and economically blockaded by neighbouring countries.

Qatar has attacked the five-month long blockade as being a "humanitarian" issue and, accordingly, Thursday's announcement may have been prompted by the dispute.

Since the crisis began, Doha has made several notable social policy concessions.

These include proposed changes to its strict residency laws and agreeing to demands from human rights campaigners to overhaul its treatment of the 2 million-plus migrant workers in Qatar, readying the country for football World Cup in 2022.

In 2015, two women were voted on to the country's only directly elected body, the 29-strong central municipal council.

Previously, Jaber became only the third woman appointed to the Cabinet, when she was selected as communications minister in 2013.

She was also appointed to Volkswagen's advisory board after Qatar's investment in the German carmaker.

Qatar announced it would hold elections to the Shura Council in 2007, but the vote — to elect two-thirds of all members of the council with the remaining third to be selected by the emir — was subsequently postponed. 

Another planned election for 2010 also passed without a vote.

It has been suggested that elections for the council will now take place in 2019 but this has not been confirmed.

Earlier this week Qatar announced the appointment of its first foreign ministry spokeswoman, Lulwa Rashid Al Khater.

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