In early January, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz appointed 30 women to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, which had been an all-male assembly. Fifteen women in nine Arab countries, from Morocco to Egypt and Iraq, reacted to the appointment, and remarks by controversial cleric Ahmed al Abdulqader ― who reportedly called the new council members “prostitutes” on Twitter. Nearly all of the women saw the appointment as an important step in the struggle for women’s rights in the kingdom. But several stipulated that the appointment would make little difference if other reforms are not enacted.
President Obama said Syrian President Bashar al Assad has lost his legitimacy and “must go,” during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 20. Obama, on his first presidential visit to Israel, warned that the Syrian regime “will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists.”
“I see a Muslim Brotherhood crescent developing in Egypt and Turkey,” Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned in a series of interviews with The Atlantic. The monarch said the Muslim Brothers are not necessarily interested in democracy. They are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
On March 15, Sheikh Salman al Oudah warned that Saudi government inaction on political prisoners, poverty and corruption could spark violence in the kingdom. “When tempers are high, religious, political, and cultural symbols lose their value. The mob in the street takes control,” the open letter said.
A U.N. declaration on women’s rights contradicts “established principals in Islam” and would “lead to the complete disintegration of society,” according to a new statement by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The online statement warned that the ratification of the document would “be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries.”
Women in the Middle East and North Africa are more educated than ever before, but their participation in the workface is 25 percent – about half of the world average, according to a new report by the World Bank. “Often what stands between women and jobs are legal and social barriers,” said Manuela Ferro, Director for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management in the MENA region. But even some educated women lack the relevant skills currently in demand.
The Arab uprisings have “generated a spike in threats to U.S. interests… that will likely endure until political upheaval stabilizes and security forces regain their capabilities,” according to the U.S. intelligence community’s new worldwide threat assessment. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper delivered the report to the Senate on March 12.
Many women in the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing physical violence and are being pushed out of public life, according to a new report by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.
Iran is now viewed unfavorably in 14 out of 20 Arab and Muslim countries, according to a new poll by Zogby Research Services. The survey results show a growing antipathy towards Tehran, especially in Sunni countries. Majorities in all but four countries agreed that Iran is contributing to sectarian division in the Arab world.
The official United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2013 is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” Women leaders from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon were asked how government and civil society can combat gender-based violence. Nearly all of them called for tougher legislation to criminalize violence against women.