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  • Saudi Women Have Message for U.S. Envoy Karen Hughes

    Women have more than equal rights," ... asserting that men have obligations accompanying their rights, and that women can go to court to hold them accountable

    September 28, 2005
    Saudi Women Have Message for U.S. Envoy
    By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

    JIDDA, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 27 - The audience - 500 women covered in black at a Saudi university - seemed an ideal place for Karen P. Hughes, a senior Bush administration official charged with spreading the American message in the Muslim world, to make her pitch.

    But the response on Tuesday was not what she and her aides expected. When Ms. Hughes expressed the hope here that Saudi women would be able to drive and "fully participate in society" much as they do in her country, many challenged her.

    "The general image of the Arab woman is that she isn't happy," one audience member said. "Well, we're all pretty happy." The room, full of students, faculty members and some professionals, resounded with applause.

    The administration's efforts to publicize American ideals in the Muslim world have often run into such resistance. For that reason, Ms. Hughes, who is considered one of the administration's most scripted and careful members, was hired specifically for the task.

    Many in this region say they resent the American assumption that, given the chance, everyone would live like Americans.

    The group of women, picked by the university, represented the privileged elite of this Red Sea coastal city, known as one of the more liberal areas in the country. And while they were certainly friendly toward Ms. Hughes, half a dozen who spoke up took issue with what she said.

    Ms. Hughes, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy, is on her first trip to the Middle East. She seemed clearly taken aback as the women told her that just because they were not allowed to vote or drive that did not mean they were treated unfairly or imprisoned in their own homes.

    "We're not in any way barred from talking to the other sex," said Dr. Nada Jambi, a public health professor. "It's not an absolute wall."

    The session at Dar Al-Hekma College provided an unusual departure from the carefully staged events in a tour that began Sunday in Egypt.

    As it was ending Ms. Hughes, a longtime communications aide to President Bush, assured the women that she was impressed with what they had said and that she would take their message home. "I would be glad to go back to the United States and talk about the Arab women I've met," she said.

    Ms. Hughes is the third appointee to head a program with a troubled past. The first, Charlotte Beers, a Madison Avenue executive, produced a promotional video about Muslims in America that was rejected by some Arab nations and scoffed at by a number of State Department colleagues. Her successor, Margaret D. Tutwiler, a former State Department spokeswoman, lasted barely five months. A report issued in 2003 by a bipartisan panel chosen by the Bush administration portrayed a dire picture of American public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world.

    Ms. Hughes, on this first foray, has churned through meetings in which she has tirelessly introduced herself as "a mom," explained that Americans are people of faith and called for more cultural and educational exchanges. Her efforts to explain policies in Iraq and the Middle East have been polite and cautious.

    As a visiting dignitary, she had audiences in the summer palaces of Jidda with King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan and the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal. But mostly it was a day that underscored the uneasy Saudi-American relationship, fed by unsavory images the countries have of each another.

    In December, there was an armed attack on the American Consulate in Jidda, leaving five people dead, and that meant that the Americans traveling with Ms. Hughes were cautioned against traveling alone in the city.

    At the meeting with the Saudi women, television crews were barred and reporters were segregated according to sex. American officials said it was highly unusual for men to be allowed in the hall at all.

    A meeting with leading editors, all men, featured more familiar complaints about what several said were American biases against the Palestinians, the incarceration of Muslims at Guantánamo Bay and the supposed American stereotype of Saudis as religious fanatics and extremists after Sept. 11.

    Ms. Hughes responded by reminding listeners that President Bush had supported the establishment of a Palestinian state and asserting that Guantánamo prisoners had been visited by the International Red Cross and retained the right to worship with their own Korans.

    Americans, she said at one point, were beginning to understand Islam better but had been disappointed that some Muslim leaders had been "reticent" at first in criticizing the Sept. 11 attacks.

    "Now, several years later, we're beginning to hear other voices," she said.

    But it was the meeting with the women that was the most unpredictable, as Ms. Hughes found herself on the defensive simply by saying that she hoped women would be able to vote in future elections.

    In June, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked of democracy and freedom in the Middle East but declined to address the question of driving. By contrast, Ms. Hughes spoke personally, saying that driving a car was "an important part of my freedom."

    A woman in the audience then charged that under President Bush the United States had become "a right-wing country" and that criticism by the press was "not allowed."

    "I have to say I sometimes wish that were the case, but it's not," Ms. Hughes said with a laugh.

    Several women said later that Americans failed to understand that their traditional society was embraced by men and women alike.

    "There is more male chauvinism in my profession in Europe and America than in my country," said Dr. Siddiqa Kamal, an obstetrician and gynecologist who runs her own hospital.


    "I don't want to drive a car," she said. "I worked hard for my medical degree. Why do I need a driver's license?"

    "Women have more than equal rights," added her daughter, Dr. Fouzia Pasha, also an obstetrician and gynecologist, asserting that men have obligations accompanying their rights, and that women can go to court to hold them accountable.

    Ms. Hughes appeared to have left a favorable impression. "She's open to people's opinions," said Nour al-Sabbagh, a 21-year-old student in special education. "She's trying to understand."

    Like some of her friends, Ms. Sabbagh said Westerners failed to appreciate the advantages of wearing the traditional black head-to-foot covering known as an abaya.

    "I love my abaya," she explained. "It's convenient and it can be very fashionable."
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Norman Chad, syndicated columnist: “Sports radio, reflecting our sinking culture, spends entire days advising managers and coaches, berating managers and coaches, firing managers and coaches and searching the countryside for better middle relievers. If they just redirected their energy toward, say, crosswalk-signal maintenance, America would be 2 percent more livable.”

    "The best argument against democracy," someone (Churchill?) said, "is a five minute conversation with the average voter."

  • #2
    QUOTE
    Many in this region say they resent the American assumption that, given the chance, everyone would live like Americans[/b][/quote]

    boom goes the dynamite. So simple, yet for some reason and for some, unfathomable.
    Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

    Comment


    • #3
      Paging Lois, paging Lois.
      Dude. Can. Fly.

      Comment


      • #4
        QUOTE
        "I don't want to drive a car," she said. "I worked hard for my medical degree. Why do I need a driver's license?"[/b][/quote]

        But what if you wanted to you dumb B&%@H


        My god they have gangs/cops that walk around with clubs who do nothing but look for women breaking the rules and they beat them.
        Women in Iraq had far more "rights" than the women in SA
        Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.

        Comment


        • #5
          QUOTE(madyaks @ Sep 28 2005, 10:56 AM) Quoted post


          Women in Iraq had far more "rights" than the women in SA
          [/b][/quote]


          Possibly, if they were Sunni
          Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

          Comment


          • #6
            QUOTE(dvyyyyyy @ Sep 28 2005, 12:52 PM) Quoted post

            Paging Lois, paging Lois.
            [/b][/quote]
            Why are you paging me? That's exactly what I've been trying to tell you guys for the last 2 or 3 days!!!! It's part of their culture, that's the way they live, and that's what I've been trying to tell you. You were on my case because I was NOT all outraged about it. I don't think it's right that we try to completely change another cultures beliefs unless they are physically harmful. I also said that there were women in power in Iraq but that it would take some time before the culture evolved enough for this to be acceptable.

            This whole thing over women's rights started because someone made the comment that after the U.S, invasion if Iraq, women had less rights because the religious practices of female dress and being subjugate to males was now being practiced. I said right off that things like this don't change over time and I was immediately jumped on because I wasn't outraged at the way these women were being treated. So basically I was right all along.
            Official Lounge Sponsor of Kentucky - The Bluegrass State
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            formerly aka Lois Lane - Going back to my hillbilly roots!

            Comment


            • #7
              QUOTE(Lois Lane @ Sep 28 2005, 01:01 PM) Quoted post

              QUOTE(dvyyyyyy @ Sep 28 2005, 12:52 PM) Quoted post

              Paging Lois, paging Lois.
              [/b][/quote]
              Why are you paging me? That's exactly what I've been trying to tell you guys for the last 2 or 3 days!!!! It's part of their culture, that's the way they live, and that's what I've been trying to tell you. You were on my case because I was NOT all outraged about it. [/b][/quote]

              I was? [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/blink.gif[/img]

              You need to re-read that thread.
              Dude. Can. Fly.

              Comment


              • #8
                Yeah, I think this backs up a portion of Lois position from the other day.
                Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

                Comment


                • #9
                  QUOTE(lazydaze @ Sep 28 2005, 01:00 PM) Quoted post

                  QUOTE(madyaks @ Sep 28 2005, 10:56 AM) Quoted post


                  Women in Iraq had far more "rights" than the women in SA
                  [/b][/quote]


                  Possibly, if they were Sunni
                  [/b][/quote]

                  Nope you could drive, go to school, become doctors, just about anything.

                  Yes it was a fucked up place to live and Saddam and his sons did lots of bad shit to their people.
                  But there is a good damn chance that under the new government that women will have fewer rights than they did under the old guys.
                  Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    QUOTE(madyaks @ Sep 28 2005, 11:04 AM) Quoted post

                    QUOTE(lazydaze @ Sep 28 2005, 01:00 PM) Quoted post

                    QUOTE(madyaks @ Sep 28 2005, 10:56 AM) Quoted post


                    Women in Iraq had far more "rights" than the women in SA
                    [/b][/quote]


                    Possibly, if they were Sunni
                    [/b][/quote]

                    Nope you could drive, go to school, become doctors, just about anything.

                    Yes it was a fucked up place to live and Saddam and his sons did lots of bad shit to their people.
                    But there is a good damn chance that under the new government that women will have fewer rights than they did under the old guys.
                    [/b][/quote]
                    QUOTE
                    Conditions for Iraqi women have certainly deteriorated since the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Today, mothers who can read have daughters who cannot, and the older generation often displays more modern views than the younger. Those who recall pre-Hussein Iraq remember women's political activism. The Iraqi Women's League was founded in 1952 but forced underground by Hussein soon after the Baath Party took over in 1968.

                    Members kept in touch as exiles and recently reconstituted the league in Baghdad with the aim of maintaining women's involvement in the new government. Although the Baathists usurped Iraqis' political freedom, women's advancement fit the party's secular, nationalist agenda, and it established a Soviet-style General Federation of Iraqi Women in 1969 with branches throughout the country. Women's educational and professional prospects improved, particularly in the fields of education, medicine, and engineering, and women became breadwinners when their husbands left for the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

                    Many of these gains were lost during the economic depression that followed international sanctions in the 1990s. Men took priority in the shrinking job market. Families pulled girls out of school to work at home, and female literacy plummeted. Iraqis increasingly turned to religion for solace, sharpening the divide between the country's Shiite Muslims (who constitute roughly 60 percent of the population), and Sunni Muslims (who account for about 35 percent). Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, launched a “Faith Campaign” in the early 1990s that attempted to co-opt the support of conservative religious leaders while eradicating Shiite leadership, rolling back women's legal protections in the process. Nevertheless, Shiite Islam's influence grew steadily throughout the 1990s, chiefly because its focus on social justice attracted the poor and oppressed and also because Hussein's crackdowns strengthened Shiite solidarity. This growing religious divide mirrored an increasing gap between rich and poor Iraqis that radical Shiite leaders such as Sadr would later successfully exploit.
                    [/b][/quote]
                    Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      QUOTE(dvyyyyyy @ Sep 28 2005, 01:02 PM) Quoted post

                      QUOTE(Lois Lane @ Sep 28 2005, 01:01 PM) Quoted post

                      QUOTE(dvyyyyyy @ Sep 28 2005, 12:52 PM) Quoted post

                      Paging Lois, paging Lois.
                      [/b][/quote]
                      Why are you paging me? That's exactly what I've been trying to tell you guys for the last 2 or 3 days!!!! It's part of their culture, that's the way they live, and that's what I've been trying to tell you. You were on my case because I was NOT all outraged about it. [/b][/quote]

                      I was? [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/blink.gif[/img]

                      You need to re-read that thread.
                      [/b][/quote]
                      This was the comment that threw me off I guess:
                      QUOTE(dvyyyyyy @ Sep 27 2005, 03:08 PM) Quoted post

                      No, I'm saying you don't seem to be too up-in-arms about the lack of women's rights that are going into the new Iraq. Wonder why?
                      [/b][/quote]
                      Official Lounge Sponsor of Kentucky - The Bluegrass State
                      Proud Sponsor of Kirkwood Athletic Associations's Gameface #5 DK
                      Official Sponsor of the Lounge Badgers #13 Guppy
                      Official Lounge Sponsor of the Rams # 81 Torry Holt
                      NOW Sponsoring St. Louis Cardinals #3 Abraham Nunez
                      LET'S GO CARDINALS!!!!! \"IPB

                      "From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere..."

                      formerly aka Lois Lane - Going back to my hillbilly roots!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just a couple of thoughts--

                        The article says the group was hand picked-I wonder why these women were chosen

                        and the article states that a full half dozen spoke up to take issue with Ms. Hughs-clearly a majority


                        [/quote]My god they have gangs/cops that walk around with clubs who do nothing but look for women breaking the rules and they beat them.[/quote]

                        I wonder if saying that you wanted things to change would have in any way been considered "breaking the rules" [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/rolleyes.gif[/img]



                        The discussion the other day was about women's rights backsliding in Iraq, not about rights that SA women have never had. It will take a long time to change the way women are treated but going in reverse shouldn't be tolerated.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          [
                          QUOTE
                          The article says the group was hand picked[/b][/quote]

                          Like at the Bush/Cheney campaign rallies? [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif[/img]

                          I guess they're learning the more modern version of "Democracy".
                          Norman Chad, syndicated columnist: “Sports radio, reflecting our sinking culture, spends entire days advising managers and coaches, berating managers and coaches, firing managers and coaches and searching the countryside for better middle relievers. If they just redirected their energy toward, say, crosswalk-signal maintenance, America would be 2 percent more livable.”

                          "The best argument against democracy," someone (Churchill?) said, "is a five minute conversation with the average voter."

                          Comment

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