Saudi Arabia Turning Wheels: Appoints Somayya Jabarti as Country's First Female Editor of National Newspaper

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By Johnlee Varghese | February 19, 2014 7:48 PM EST

Somayya Jabarti, Saudi Arabia's first female editor of an English National daily/Facebook
Somayya Jabarti, Saudi Arabia's first female editor of an English National daily/Facebook

Even though the conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is yet to lift the driving ban on women, in a first in the country, a woman has been appointed as the editor-in-chief of a national newspaper.

Somayya Jabarti has been appointed as the new editor-in-chief of English newspaper Saudi Gazette. She took over the reins from Khaled Almaeena, who has now became the editor-at-large.

In Saudi Arabia, where women's rights are defined by Sunni Islam and tribal customs, the appointment of Somayya is being seen as a sign of changing times. In a major progressive step, King Abdullah has declared that women will be able to both vote and participate in the 2015 local elections, as well as be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.

Somayya, the new editor-in-chief of Saudi Gazette, also voiced a similar optimistism, in an interview with Al Arabiya News, signalling a shift in the attitude over women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

"There's a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling. And I'm hoping it will be made into a door," Jabarti told Al Arabiya News. "This is a first for a Saudi daily. A mold has been broken where editors-in-chief of Saudi daily newspapers are concerned."

In the same interview, Somayya also spoke on the responsibility she has towards other women in the country. "Being the first Saudi woman [newspaper editor] is going to be double the responsibility. One's actions will reflect upon my fellow Saudi women," she said.

Recently there was much international attention on the country, as several women had raised their voice on the right to be allowed to drive a four-wheeler. Currently, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving ,and it is the also the only country to score a zero in political empowerment of women.

Almaeena, the former editor-in-chief and the current editor-at-large of Saudi Gazette, in his letter to the readers, announcing the change, noted that Somayya had 'earned' the position.

"Today I proudly leave my nominee, a female journalist - Somayya Jabarti - who will take the helm of the paper...She has been associated with me for almost 13 years, and I've had the goal almost as long of wanting to see a Saudi woman enter the male-dominated bastion of editors-in-chief. It was not a question of gender but of merit that decided and earned her this opportunity."

Before the promotion, Somayya was Saudi Gazette's deputy editor. She also has worked with Arab News, a Saudi English newspaper based in Jeddah, as deputy editor.

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Somayya Jabarti, Saudi Arabia's first female editor of an English National daily/Facebook
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