Lebanese Columnist: Arab World In Perpetual War Against Women

Saudi women praying at Eid al-Adha in Riyadh on November 27, 2009/Stringer

TEL AVIV – A Lebanese columnist slammed the Arab world for its misogyny and blatant discrimination against women, calling out a Lebanese MP for saying that women “give a rapist a reason to rape them.”

Writing on the liberal website Elaph in a column translated Friday by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Hazem Saghiya observed sardonically that civil wars are apparently not enough for Arab nations, and therefore they must also must be “engaged in a perpetual war against women.”

Arab men, from the “top echelons of leadership or in the lowest strata of society – feel helpless, unsure what to do with these creatures,” writes Saghiya in reference to women, “whose numbers seem excessive.”

Saghiya singles out Lebanese MP Elie Marouni as an example, a man he claims “generally failed to notice that women had any role” in society at all. However, writes Saghiya, Marouni eventually “understood one day that they do have a role … but the role he ascribed to them was that ‘some women give a rapist a reason to rape them.'”

Saghiya also slammed Egyptian MP Ilhami Agina for his opposition to a bill criminalizing female genital mutilation. The writer thanks Agina for shedding light on the “amazing statistic” which shows that between 70-90% of Egyptian women have undergone FGM.

According to Agina, writes Saghiya, “the rise in impotence among men obligates us to suppress sexual desire in women!”

Saghiya continues by saying that while these stories made the headlines, there are scores of Arab women that the world does not hear of, “who live out their tragedies in remote suburbs and locked rooms where nobody discusses what goes on in them.”

Arab regimes, whether they are conservative or revolutionary, continue to entrench the status of women as “slaves” and “commodities,” and with the partial exception of Tunisia, the Arab Spring took no interest in changing the fate of women.

According to Saghiya, while the Islamists are guilty of trying to “control and punish” women “in the name of the scriptures,” more progressive Arab countries try to show the world that “we Arabs have come a long way in equality between the sexes!” by publishing articles celebrating Arab socialites and businesswomen.

“But the fact is that women are excluded from public discourse, and are suddenly remembered when there is a need for proof of Western conspiracies or Orientalism” that accuses Arab nations of treating women as second class citizens. In reality, says Saghiya, only a handful of women and men are actually having any meaningful impact in changing legislation and in most cases their “enthusiasm exceeds their influence.”

Saghiya also points to Arab governments for “deceiv[ing] the West by beautifying [the facts and keeping up] the charade until the Western official’s [plane] leaves the airport, and then things go back to the way they were.”


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