Sunday, May 18, 2008

President Bush Gets It Right on the Status of Women in the Middle East

It's not often that I have anything good to say about President Bush. And I say that as someone who favored him over Al Gore in 2000. It took a Bush presidency and a Republican congress to turn me from a libertarian conservative into a libertarian liberal. I feared that his invasion of Iraq in 2003 was going to turn that country into a giant version of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and thus far the situation in Iraq continues to validate my reasons for opposing the war.

That being said, I read
President Bush's recent remarks to the World Economic Forum at Sharm El Sheik in Egypt this weekend. I thought he made some important statements about the need to extend equality to women in the Middle East. Below are the relevant portions of the president's speech, with several passages underlined by me for emphasis.

"Building powerful economies also requires expanding the role of women in society. This is a matter of morality and of basic math. No nation that cuts off half its population from opportunities will be as productive or prosperous as it could be. Women are a formidable force, as I have seen in my own family -- (laughter and applause) -- and my own administration. (Applause.) As the nations of the Middle East open up their laws and their societies to women, they are learning the same thing.

I applaud Egypt. Egypt is a model for the development of professional women. In Afghanistan, girls who were once denied even a basic education are now going to school, and a whole generation of Afghans will grow up with the intellectual tools to lead their nation toward prosperity. In Iraq and Kuwait, women are joining political parties and running campaigns and serving in public office. In some Gulf States, women entrepreneurs are making a living and a name for themselves in the business world.

Recently, I learned of a woman in Bahrain who owns her own shipping company. She started with a small office and two employees. When she first tried to register her business in her own name, she was turned down. She attended a business training class and was the only woman to participate. And when she applied for a customs license, officials expressed surprise because no woman had ever asked for one before. And yet with hard work and determination, she turned her small company into a $2 million enterprise. And this year, Huda Janahi was named one of the 50 most powerful businesswomen in the Arab world. (Applause.) Huda is an inspiring example for the whole region. And America's message to other women in the Middle East is this: You have a great deal to contribute, you should have a strong voice in leading your countries, and my nation looks to the day when you have the rights and privileges you deserve."

Sadly, as the results of this weekend's
parliamentary elections in the Gulf emirate of Kuwait demonstrate, the Middle East still has a long way to go with respect to expanding the role of women.

Of the 275 candidates running for the 50 seats in Kuwait's parliament, 27 were women. Not a single one of the women candidates was elected. Unfortunately, as the video clip below from al-Jazeera English demonstrates, not only are Arab women held in check by male conservative attitudes, but by brainwashed Arab women who believe that a woman "can't handle" the responsibilities of being an elected official. And to think this is a country that we helped to liberate.


The Geezers said...

As my grandfather used to say, "even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile."

I suspect that W. perhaps had dinner with his mother, who explained to him what's what. I can't imagine he saw the truth all on his own.

asdfasera said...

Yet his administration opposed Plan B for women and restricted reproductive rights at home. They waged a war against Planned Parenthood. Economic access is tied to reproductive rights. Great post, btw.

Tommykey said...

Yes, I totally agree with you Barbie. And as Merc wrote above "even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile."

But, since I am on a promoting feminism in the Islamic world kick, I wanted to give Bush some props for saying something that I believed needed saying.

Tommykey said...

Darnit Barbie, your new blog is down?

Anonymous said...

Great post. As a former "libertarian conservative" Republican myself, I can empathize. However, instead of becoming a libertarian liberal, I would like to see us all start voting straight Libertarian. Maybe, if we take enough votes away from the Republicans, we can get, at least, most of our party back.