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2016-01-25T21:19:31+05:30
The Arab Spring of 2011 confirmed this region as a centre of debates over women’s rights, though of course not all residents are Arab. Women joined in anti-colonial movements from the beginning and today support diverse political alternatives. Women in the Middle Eastern diasporic communities in Canada as elsewhere also provide support and encouragement for those left behind, in an expression of global sisterhood that needs to be remembered. This activist history helped propel the first woman of Arab descent, Tawakkol Karman from Yemen, to win the Noble Peace Prize in 2011. There are other signs of progress as when Kuwait’s women received the same political rights as men in 2005.  And yet so-called ‘honour crimes’ in countries such as Jordan and Egypt, reactionary interpretations of Islamic tradition in Iran, and laws such as those forbidding women options open to men, ranging from a driver’s licence to the vote in Saudi Arabia, continue to handicap development and justice. And as elsewhere in the world, certain groups of women, notably refugees, migrant workers, members of minority religions and ethnic communities, those with disabilities, and the poor in general are especially vulnerable. Women are significantly under-represented or entirely absent in positions of authority. It is still fair to say that in general “progress is stymied by the lack of democratic institutions, an independent judiciary, and freedoms of association and assembly”(Kelly and Breslin 3).

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