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3/20/04 - WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST - 2004-03-22

This month, Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of Oman, appointed Rawya bint Saud al-Bussaidi to be the country’s new higher education minister. She is Oman’s first female cabinet member.

President George W. Bush says, “These are extraordinary times”:

“We’ve seen the fall of brutal tyrants. We’re seeing the rise of democracy in the Middle East. We’re seeing women take their rightful place in societies that were once incredibly oppressive and closed. We’re seeing the power and appeal of liberty in every single culture.”

Mr. Bush says change is also taking place in Morocco, where King Mohammed Ben al-Hassan has “proposed laws to protect the rights of women”:

“He said, ‘How can society achieve progress while women, who represent half the nation, see their rights violated and suffer as a result of injustice and violence and marginalization, notwithstanding the dignity and justice granted to them by our glorious religion?’ It’s a strong statement of freedom. He’s right. America stands with His Majesty and others who share that basic belief. The future of Muslim nations will be better off for all with the full participation of women.”

Progress toward respecting the rights of women in the Middle East and elsewhere is being made. But too many women still face oppressive practices, violence, and prejudice. As Farahnaz Nazir, founder of the Afghanistan Women’s Association, put it: “Society is like a bird. It has two wings. And a bird cannot fly if one wing is broken.”