Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Women in the Arab Gulf: a Few Things to be known.

At the political level, changes in the Arab word are not to be expected in the short range, but a look at the social issues gives some reasons to be more optimistic. Even thought violence against women could be even worst than before, according to Madawi El-Rasheed’s contribution in Al-Quds al-‘arabi, such a fact could be explained as a confirmation of the reality of the threat, for some men, of the feminist acts of self-affirmation.

A feminist affirmation which takes at times unexpected paths, as with the Million’s Poet contest, on Abu Dhabi TV, a very successful program run by an woman from the Emirates, Nasha Al Rwaini. In an interview to be founded on Middle-East Online, she explained her surprise when she discovered how the Poet’s Million could pave the way for women empowerment, especially after poetess Al Jahani (photo) successively resisted pressure from her family and tribe (but not her husband!) to resign from the competition.

Regarding the very symbolic question of allowing women to drive in the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), it has been noticed that a “liberal” shaykh has recently issued a fatwa making the lifting of the ban more possible than ever, and encouraging, in the same declaration, women’s gym (in all-women clubs, of course !). Before, a group of young Saudi women had launched an online campaign called Let her get fat to protest a government decision to shut down gyms.

Foreigners may misunderstand this “Gulf women lib” where a total segregation between sexes (in coffee shops or hotels for instance) may be a way for women to affirm themselves but this “quite” (and soft) revolution should not be underestimated as day-to-day issues, linked to women’s situation, are obviously backed by some elites eager to push for political reforms (on the photo, al-Waleed Ibn Talal supporting, a few months, members of the first feminine Saudi soccer team, from Jeddah!

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

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