topic
Arab Women - Roles and Rights

Introduced: April 25 2011

This topic was introduced as part of the overall Arab Spring dialogue. Using Egypt as a test case, women who participated in the demonstrations in Tahrir Square – do they still have a voice?

 

What difference do you think having women gain more respect and authority in the Middle East will have on the future of those countries – and possibly our future?

 

Dialogue on Arab Women - Roles and Rights
089:

One of the best things about sports for women is that they sometimes open doors that were previously closed. I think it has to do with knowing that the world is watching and comparing the performance of countries. I think it's absolutely terrific that Saudi Arabia is permitting women to compete in the Olympics for the first time. Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has approved women's participation as long as their sports meet the standards of women's decency and don't contradict Islamic law. Up until now, the International Olympic Committee has looked the other way and not followed its own charter for equality by allowing Muslim countries to compete when their female athletes cannot. Now, another problem women face in these countries is even getting to the point where their participation is Olympic-quality, because physicial eduction classes are still forbidden for girls in Saudi schools.

105:

There are a lot of places in the world where women face dramatically different life situations from those faced by women in the U.S. and it seems that Arab women particularly mystify us. Their lack of freedom, the restrictions for the way they dress, etc. But I was suprised to read in the New York Times that women in Israel can face the same kind of extreme limitations. The Israeli Health Ministry awarded a prize to a woman physician and author, only to deny her the right to attend the award ceremony and accept the award. Why? Because the acting health minister is extremely Orthodox. Some other women were forbidden from speaking at a podium at a conference about women's health and Jewish law. But the worst was a group of ultra-Orthodox men who spit on an eight-year-old girl because they didn't like the way she was dressed. Is this the country of Golda Meir???



Note from IWD: If you'd like to read more on this topic, here are links to an article and an op-ed in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/world/middleeast/israel-faces-crisis-over-role-of-ultra-orthodox-in-society.html?pagewanted=all Op Ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/20/opinion/ultra-orthodox-jews-and-the-modesty-fight.html

048:

It’s not just Egypt. Women are being disregarded in Afghanistan, too. In The Week magazine, Kathleen Parker writes that a senior Obama administration official recently said that peace could only be secured in Afghanistan if “gender issues” and other “pet rocks” were put aside. Hopefully, he doesn’t speak for official policy. Parker says, “We’re not talking about subsidized day care here. We’re talkiing about the right of girls to attend school without having acid thrown in their faces. We’re talking about the freedom to work, to seek an education, and to be safe to walk on the streets without a male escort. In other words, to have a life.”

 

Note from IWD: Relevant Reading: December 2010 issue of National Geographic features a story entitled “Veiled Rebellion” about how Afghan women are starting to fight for a just life.

063:

You touched on a wonderful subject...changing governments in the Middle East and just WHAT is a woman's role. I am reminded of a Diane Sawyer ( I think) interview of a very talented, smart, beautiful Saudi woman, American educated doctor, who after years of fine Western education, returned to her homeland, and says she is content raising her children (with the help of servants) while catering to her Mother-in-law who lives next door !! No mention of a possible medical practice or volunteering in the medical field. I was so surprised and slightly annoyed that she possibly may have taken the place of an American in Med School who WOULD have actually practiced medicine. She did not seem the least bit concerned that with all her education, she just went along with tradition and stayed at home shrouded in a veil. I know that Middle Eastern women are most often not supported by western thinking husbands, and in most cases, their Mother-in-law rules their family. Years of mistreatment, neglect and having to live in a male-dominated culture with no voice, has to have a generational effect on women…do not rock the boat. I remember Madeleine Albright having major roadblocks in every venture in the Middle East. She could never be taken seriously by Middle Eastern rulers because she was a woman. It is so hard to overcome centuries of women suppression...how do you begin to educate people as to the value of a woman beyond being a breeder of the next generation ?? The single most defining factor, I think, will be the Internet. Access to a "global village" of insight, info and support to the suppressed women of the world will help bolster their crusade to be represented and heard. Right down to You Tube videos...the world is watching, and will no longer turn a blind eye nor ear to the plight of a woman's voice throughout the world !! As new governments take shape, I really cannot imagine what role women will take. In a perfect world, their voices will be heard and they will lobby for a seat at the table to help formulate change and democracy for all. They are overcoming centuries of antiquated values, and their countries may not be ready for such a drastic change and re-education. We can only hope women will be invited to help bring in and implement the change.

076:

I read that Hillary Clinton spoke at the U.S. Islamic Forum and told Arab leaders that the U.S. is watching to see if new governments really make changes that address the problems of unemployment, corruption, and lack of opportunity for women. I wonder if there is more going on behind the scenes to try to influence the new leaders who take over government in Egypt and other countries.

031:

If more women play a significant role in these new governments, I doubt we will see the impact of their influence for many decades. The evaluation of effective leadership is often made long after the leader is gone. It takes time to see if positive change they initiated is hardwired.

012:

I’m not sure this received much media attention, but only a few weeks after Mubarek left, Egyptian women went back out on the streets to demonstrate on International Women’s Day and were mobbed by men who called them “prostitutes” and told them to go home. Supposedly, the crowd of men yelled at the women that they are not religious, that they are seeking to destroy Egypt and undermine family values by encouraging women to desert their husbands. Then, the next day, when police came to Tahrir Square to send home any remaining protestors, they arrested 19 women and supposedly beat and verbally abused them.

Note from IWD about Women in Yemen: In mid-April, after besieged Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh suggested that protestors were violating Islamic law because men and women were mingling in the streets, Yemeni women went back into the streets, calling him a “lowlife.” The New York Times, carried a photo of the crowd of women – all in abayas, with just their eyes peering out -- pumping their fists and shouting . Yemen has conservative customs; in addition to the abayas, women never eat with men and many young girls are married off at a young age. But these customs are not legislated. Women hold prominent roles in Yemeni society. For many Western women, it’s hard to see past the abayas to believe women care about their rights.

030:

Women in leadership ... will it always be considered a 'defeat' for the male of the species? If it’s still that way here (in U.S.), how can the Muslim culture allow women to step ahead? Equality - not going to happen without BIG changes - and who will lead the way? Will males give up their meaningful control of a society and culture...aside from tokenism. It may be taken in elections of individuals (i.e. Thatcher)... or denied (Clinton).

089:

One of the best things about sports for women is that they sometimes open doors that were previously closed. I think it has to do with knowing that the world is watching and comparing the performance of countries. I think it's absolutely terrific that Saudi Arabia is permitting women to compete in the Olympics for the first time. Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has approved women's participation as long as their sports meet the standards of women's decency and don't contradict Islamic law. Up until now, the International Olympic Committee has looked the other way and not followed its own charter for equality by allowing Muslim countries to compete when their female athletes cannot. Now, another problem women face in these countries is even getting to the point where their participation is Olympic-quality, because physicial eduction classes are still forbidden for girls in Saudi schools.

105:

There are a lot of places in the world where women face dramatically different life situations from those faced by women in the U.S. and it seems that Arab women particularly mystify us. Their lack of freedom, the restrictions for the way they dress, etc. But I was suprised to read in the New York Times that women in Israel can face the same kind of extreme limitations. The Israeli Health Ministry awarded a prize to a woman physician and author, only to deny her the right to attend the award ceremony and accept the award. Why? Because the acting health minister is extremely Orthodox. Some other women were forbidden from speaking at a podium at a conference about women's health and Jewish law. But the worst was a group of ultra-Orthodox men who spit on an eight-year-old girl because they didn't like the way she was dressed. Is this the country of Golda Meir???



Note from IWD: If you'd like to read more on this topic, here are links to an article and an op-ed in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/world/middleeast/israel-faces-crisis-over-role-of-ultra-orthodox-in-society.html?pagewanted=all Op Ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/20/opinion/ultra-orthodox-jews-and-the-modesty-fight.html

048:

It’s not just Egypt. Women are being disregarded in Afghanistan, too. In The Week magazine, Kathleen Parker writes that a senior Obama administration official recently said that peace could only be secured in Afghanistan if “gender issues” and other “pet rocks” were put aside. Hopefully, he doesn’t speak for official policy. Parker says, “We’re not talking about subsidized day care here. We’re talkiing about the right of girls to attend school without having acid thrown in their faces. We’re talking about the freedom to work, to seek an education, and to be safe to walk on the streets without a male escort. In other words, to have a life.”

 

Note from IWD: Relevant Reading: December 2010 issue of National Geographic features a story entitled “Veiled Rebellion” about how Afghan women are starting to fight for a just life.

063:

You touched on a wonderful subject...changing governments in the Middle East and just WHAT is a woman's role. I am reminded of a Diane Sawyer ( I think) interview of a very talented, smart, beautiful Saudi woman, American educated doctor, who after years of fine Western education, returned to her homeland, and says she is content raising her children (with the help of servants) while catering to her Mother-in-law who lives next door !! No mention of a possible medical practice or volunteering in the medical field. I was so surprised and slightly annoyed that she possibly may have taken the place of an American in Med School who WOULD have actually practiced medicine. She did not seem the least bit concerned that with all her education, she just went along with tradition and stayed at home shrouded in a veil. I know that Middle Eastern women are most often not supported by western thinking husbands, and in most cases, their Mother-in-law rules their family. Years of mistreatment, neglect and having to live in a male-dominated culture with no voice, has to have a generational effect on women…do not rock the boat. I remember Madeleine Albright having major roadblocks in every venture in the Middle East. She could never be taken seriously by Middle Eastern rulers because she was a woman. It is so hard to overcome centuries of women suppression...how do you begin to educate people as to the value of a woman beyond being a breeder of the next generation ?? The single most defining factor, I think, will be the Internet. Access to a "global village" of insight, info and support to the suppressed women of the world will help bolster their crusade to be represented and heard. Right down to You Tube videos...the world is watching, and will no longer turn a blind eye nor ear to the plight of a woman's voice throughout the world !! As new governments take shape, I really cannot imagine what role women will take. In a perfect world, their voices will be heard and they will lobby for a seat at the table to help formulate change and democracy for all. They are overcoming centuries of antiquated values, and their countries may not be ready for such a drastic change and re-education. We can only hope women will be invited to help bring in and implement the change.

076:

I read that Hillary Clinton spoke at the U.S. Islamic Forum and told Arab leaders that the U.S. is watching to see if new governments really make changes that address the problems of unemployment, corruption, and lack of opportunity for women. I wonder if there is more going on behind the scenes to try to influence the new leaders who take over government in Egypt and other countries.

031:

If more women play a significant role in these new governments, I doubt we will see the impact of their influence for many decades. The evaluation of effective leadership is often made long after the leader is gone. It takes time to see if positive change they initiated is hardwired.

012:

I’m not sure this received much media attention, but only a few weeks after Mubarek left, Egyptian women went back out on the streets to demonstrate on International Women’s Day and were mobbed by men who called them “prostitutes” and told them to go home. Supposedly, the crowd of men yelled at the women that they are not religious, that they are seeking to destroy Egypt and undermine family values by encouraging women to desert their husbands. Then, the next day, when police came to Tahrir Square to send home any remaining protestors, they arrested 19 women and supposedly beat and verbally abused them.

Note from IWD about Women in Yemen: In mid-April, after besieged Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh suggested that protestors were violating Islamic law because men and women were mingling in the streets, Yemeni women went back into the streets, calling him a “lowlife.” The New York Times, carried a photo of the crowd of women – all in abayas, with just their eyes peering out -- pumping their fists and shouting . Yemen has conservative customs; in addition to the abayas, women never eat with men and many young girls are married off at a young age. But these customs are not legislated. Women hold prominent roles in Yemeni society. For many Western women, it’s hard to see past the abayas to believe women care about their rights.

030:

Women in leadership ... will it always be considered a 'defeat' for the male of the species? If it’s still that way here (in U.S.), how can the Muslim culture allow women to step ahead? Equality - not going to happen without BIG changes - and who will lead the way? Will males give up their meaningful control of a society and culture...aside from tokenism. It may be taken in elections of individuals (i.e. Thatcher)... or denied (Clinton).

030:

Women in leadership ... will it always be considered a 'defeat' for the male of the species? If it’s still that way here (in U.S.), how can the Muslim culture allow women to step ahead? Equality - not going to happen without BIG changes - and who will lead the way? Will males give up their meaningful control of a society and culture...aside from tokenism. It may be taken in elections of individuals (i.e. Thatcher)... or denied (Clinton).

012:

I’m not sure this received much media attention, but only a few weeks after Mubarek left, Egyptian women went back out on the streets to demonstrate on International Women’s Day and were mobbed by men who called them “prostitutes” and told them to go home. Supposedly, the crowd of men yelled at the women that they are not religious, that they are seeking to destroy Egypt and undermine family values by encouraging women to desert their husbands. Then, the next day, when police came to Tahrir Square to send home any remaining protestors, they arrested 19 women and supposedly beat and verbally abused them.

Note from IWD about Women in Yemen: In mid-April, after besieged Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh suggested that protestors were violating Islamic law because men and women were mingling in the streets, Yemeni women went back into the streets, calling him a “lowlife.” The New York Times, carried a photo of the crowd of women – all in abayas, with just their eyes peering out -- pumping their fists and shouting . Yemen has conservative customs; in addition to the abayas, women never eat with men and many young girls are married off at a young age. But these customs are not legislated. Women hold prominent roles in Yemeni society. For many Western women, it’s hard to see past the abayas to believe women care about their rights.

031:

If more women play a significant role in these new governments, I doubt we will see the impact of their influence for many decades. The evaluation of effective leadership is often made long after the leader is gone. It takes time to see if positive change they initiated is hardwired.

076:

I read that Hillary Clinton spoke at the U.S. Islamic Forum and told Arab leaders that the U.S. is watching to see if new governments really make changes that address the problems of unemployment, corruption, and lack of opportunity for women. I wonder if there is more going on behind the scenes to try to influence the new leaders who take over government in Egypt and other countries.

063:

You touched on a wonderful subject...changing governments in the Middle East and just WHAT is a woman's role. I am reminded of a Diane Sawyer ( I think) interview of a very talented, smart, beautiful Saudi woman, American educated doctor, who after years of fine Western education, returned to her homeland, and says she is content raising her children (with the help of servants) while catering to her Mother-in-law who lives next door !! No mention of a possible medical practice or volunteering in the medical field. I was so surprised and slightly annoyed that she possibly may have taken the place of an American in Med School who WOULD have actually practiced medicine. She did not seem the least bit concerned that with all her education, she just went along with tradition and stayed at home shrouded in a veil. I know that Middle Eastern women are most often not supported by western thinking husbands, and in most cases, their Mother-in-law rules their family. Years of mistreatment, neglect and having to live in a male-dominated culture with no voice, has to have a generational effect on women…do not rock the boat. I remember Madeleine Albright having major roadblocks in every venture in the Middle East. She could never be taken seriously by Middle Eastern rulers because she was a woman. It is so hard to overcome centuries of women suppression...how do you begin to educate people as to the value of a woman beyond being a breeder of the next generation ?? The single most defining factor, I think, will be the Internet. Access to a "global village" of insight, info and support to the suppressed women of the world will help bolster their crusade to be represented and heard. Right down to You Tube videos...the world is watching, and will no longer turn a blind eye nor ear to the plight of a woman's voice throughout the world !! As new governments take shape, I really cannot imagine what role women will take. In a perfect world, their voices will be heard and they will lobby for a seat at the table to help formulate change and democracy for all. They are overcoming centuries of antiquated values, and their countries may not be ready for such a drastic change and re-education. We can only hope women will be invited to help bring in and implement the change.

048:

It’s not just Egypt. Women are being disregarded in Afghanistan, too. In The Week magazine, Kathleen Parker writes that a senior Obama administration official recently said that peace could only be secured in Afghanistan if “gender issues” and other “pet rocks” were put aside. Hopefully, he doesn’t speak for official policy. Parker says, “We’re not talking about subsidized day care here. We’re talkiing about the right of girls to attend school without having acid thrown in their faces. We’re talking about the freedom to work, to seek an education, and to be safe to walk on the streets without a male escort. In other words, to have a life.”

 

Note from IWD: Relevant Reading: December 2010 issue of National Geographic features a story entitled “Veiled Rebellion” about how Afghan women are starting to fight for a just life.

105:

There are a lot of places in the world where women face dramatically different life situations from those faced by women in the U.S. and it seems that Arab women particularly mystify us. Their lack of freedom, the restrictions for the way they dress, etc. But I was suprised to read in the New York Times that women in Israel can face the same kind of extreme limitations. The Israeli Health Ministry awarded a prize to a woman physician and author, only to deny her the right to attend the award ceremony and accept the award. Why? Because the acting health minister is extremely Orthodox. Some other women were forbidden from speaking at a podium at a conference about women's health and Jewish law. But the worst was a group of ultra-Orthodox men who spit on an eight-year-old girl because they didn't like the way she was dressed. Is this the country of Golda Meir???



Note from IWD: If you'd like to read more on this topic, here are links to an article and an op-ed in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/world/middleeast/israel-faces-crisis-over-role-of-ultra-orthodox-in-society.html?pagewanted=all Op Ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/20/opinion/ultra-orthodox-jews-and-the-modesty-fight.html

089:

One of the best things about sports for women is that they sometimes open doors that were previously closed. I think it has to do with knowing that the world is watching and comparing the performance of countries. I think it's absolutely terrific that Saudi Arabia is permitting women to compete in the Olympics for the first time. Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has approved women's participation as long as their sports meet the standards of women's decency and don't contradict Islamic law. Up until now, the International Olympic Committee has looked the other way and not followed its own charter for equality by allowing Muslim countries to compete when their female athletes cannot. Now, another problem women face in these countries is even getting to the point where their participation is Olympic-quality, because physicial eduction classes are still forbidden for girls in Saudi schools.

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