Jeddah: FOUZIA KHAN
Published — Friday 3 January 2014
Last update 5 February 2014 5:17 am
In what is being seen as a major boost for Saudi women seeking legal advice and help, Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran, the first Saudi woman lawyer who was issued license to practice law in the Kingdom, launched the first female law firm for the benefit of Saudi women on Wednesday.
Bayan Al-Zahran became the first Saudi woman lawyer when she appeared at the General Court in Jeddah for the first time in November last year to defend a client. She had been working for years as a legal consultant and had represented dozens of people in criminal and civil cases besides family disputes.
Al-Zahran told Arab News that the objective of her law firm is to fight for the rights of Saudi women and bring their problems before the court, since male lawyers in many cases couldn’t understand the problems and situations of a female plaintiff.
She said that she was planning to take up labor cases and business disputes but would also dedicate her time to women’s cases.
“I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system. This law firm will make a difference in the history of court cases and female disputes in the Kingdom. I am very hopeful and thank everyone who supported me in taking this historical step,” she said.
Al-Zahran said in the past, Saudi women faced problems finding a female lawyer who could represent them in the court. However, with the establishment of her law firm, this problem will be solved, she said, adding that she was ready to take up cases of both genders.
She said she was looking forward to progress of women lawyers in Saudi Arabia in protecting the rights of women. “This is a very positive step toward the Saudi court and justices as right now, we are four female lawyers who got the license, but I am hopeful that in future, the number will increase,” she added.
Al-Zahran’s father Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Zahran said this is the first step toward the protection of the women’s rights in the Kingdom. “We are very proud of our daughter who stands firm for protection of women’s rights. This will help all women who couldn’t go and speak to male lawyers about their problems,” he said.
The launch was attended by Mazen Batterjee, vice president of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, Zuhair Nawab, president of the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), Dr. Hussain Al Shareef , supervisor general of National Human Rights Organization, Makkah, Dr. Suhail Sawan, executive director of national committee for prisoners, Dr. Inam Ribwai, director of children surgery at King Fahad hospital and former director of family protection organization, and a number of businessmen and society ladies, doctors, lawyers, academics and jurists.
Mazen Batterjee, while congratulating Bayan ad all the female lawyers, however, emphasised on Shariah law in every aspect of life and in law practice in Saudi courts.
He said female lawyers should follow the restrictions of the court for hijab since Islam while giving rights to women, also had ethics in place for women while presenting themselves before a judge.
He hoped this first step toward a women’s law firm will be successful and follow all the rules and regulations of court and religion.
Dr. Suhail Sawan said that Al-Zahran was working for years as legal consultant and studying cases of prisons which gave her excellent exposure. This law firm is a milestone in that there are situations which can only be understood and represented by a female lawyer, he said.