The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, October 25, 2003
Whispers Of Democracy In The Mideast?
WASHINGTON – Ever so gently, the breezes of change - we can't yet call them "winds" - are rippling across hitherto repressed parts of the Islamic world.
• Saudi Arabia announced last week it will hold elections for municipal councils within a year - its first flirtation with real elections.
• In Morocco, King Mohammed VI outlined sweeping changes in polygamy, marriage, and divorce laws, proclaiming: "How can society achieve progress while women, who represent half the nation, see their rights violated and suffer as a result of injustice, violence, and marginalization?"
• In Iran, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi - the first Muslim woman to win it - gave heart and a fillip to the embattled reform movement. Ten thousand Iranians turned out at the Tehran airport to welcome her home.
• Arab intellectuals, in cooperation with the UN, released a report Monday calling for reforms that would advance the cause of women's rights in Arab lands and make governments more accountable.
• Afghanistan has virtually finished a constitution that will affirm adherence to Islam, but provide for national elections in 2004, and set up a two-chamber parliament in which women would have a significant role. The draft constitution guarantees the protection of human rights.
• In Iraq there's movement toward swifter empowerment of the Iraqi Governing Council, to be followed by a new constitution and national elections, perhaps in 2004.
Every person in the western world should hope that these trends accelerate. This is bigger than the war. It is bigger than George Bush.
The current hopeless Mideast, with its repressive leaders and disillusioned youth, serves no one except Al Qaeda.