Friday, March 18, 2005

Left Behind

It's hard to dispute that Bush's actions in the Middle East, however rash at times, have caused a lot of positive movement for women's rights in the Middle East. Simply the right to vote in Afghani, Palestinian, and Iraqi elections is a major stride forward. In addition to that, Afghanistan has woman ministers in government and Iraq has woman representatives in the soon-to-be-convened General Assembly. Despite that progress, much still is left to be done. Joseph Braude at TNR has a detailed list of atrocities and problems still facing women in the Middle East. Here's a piece:

"Perhaps it is harder to force women into the shadows; but it's still not actually hard. 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."

America has accomplished a lot, and stands on the verge of accomplishing more in the name of global women's rights. In spite of all that we face a dangerous chance to backslide. With all the pushes made, Bush and his cronies have a lot of pushing to do, and should not take the slightest chances to rest on their laurels.