Women remain marginalized and oppressed by many of the Middle East's secular and Islamist governments alike--including both America's allies and its opponents--and it's not clear what exactly the White House intends to do about it. Even in the two countries where the U.S. exerts direct military authority, the cause of women is advancing in some ways but regressing in others. In Afghanistan, human rights organizations report that rape, sex trafficking, and extra-judicial "honor killings" remain prevalent in rural areas, in part because the central government is too weak to exert much control outside Kabul. In Iraq, the security situation has effectively barred many women from leaving their homes to go to school or work. Furthermore, some newly elected Iraqi Islamist parties are pressing to repeal the relatively liberal personal status law for women that has been on the books since 1959. They want to replace it with a version of Islamic law that would take away women's inheritance rights and skew divorce law to favor men. These setbacks are the downside of political destabilization brought about by American hard power. The trouble is, American soft power is weak and inconsistent on the issue of Middle Eastern women--at a time when soft power is precisely what is needed to mitigate the negative side-effects of an aggressive foreign policy.
March 18, 2005
Here's a free link to get to The New Republic's article on the use of U.S. power for the benefit of women in the Mideast. Excerpt: