Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Long Way

That the small but oil-rich state in the northwestern corner of the Persian Gulf has recently elected four female MPs in parliamentary elections has seemingly pushed Kuwait again into a forerunner position among its Arabic neighbors, in particular largely retarded Saudi-Arabia. However, the tiny democratic achievements are at risk due to continuous outrageous reactions of six notorious Islamists in the parliament, namely Faisal AlـMislem, Waleed AlـTabtabaie, Dhaifallah BuRamiah, Jamaan AlـHarbash, Mohammed Hayef and Mubarak AlـWalaan. As we read in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Watan Daily, they threaten to “walk out of the swearing-in ceremony of the two female MPs if they do not wear the hijab while taking the oath of office.” They even met to “discuss the legal procedures to be initiated against Aseel Al-Awadi and Rola Dashti for violating the Election Law which states that female candidates must stick to Islamic dress code during elections.”

It is definitely a long way until democratic values will eventually reach even the Arab world. Islamists will sooner or later vanish anyway. It is, however, a great shame that the same troublemakers of the former parliament are again abusing their largely serving role as ‘parliamentarians’ when intimidating others about an absurd issue, wearing hijab, or Islamic headscarf, whether it is inside or outside of Kuwait’s nice parliament building.

First published at Freelance.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Kuwaiti Women Power

In the third parliamentary election within only three years, four women have won seats in the Kuwaiti parliament yesterday. Women have fought successfully for their voting rights in 2005. I remember with much sympathy the women of Kuwait demonstrating in front of the parliament when inside lawmakers eventually agreed to give them the right to vote. When I congratulated some of my female Kuwaiti colleagues, open-minded and westernized, well-educated young women, they argued, however, that the right to vote may only strengthen the influence of the Islamists in the country. The paradox may be explained as follows. Very traditional Kuwaiti family fathers have, of course, up to four wives and plenty of grown-up but still unmarried daughters who, in all likelihood, will vote what the householder prefers: one man, several votes.

In the following parliamentary election in 2006, and two years later when the parliament had untimely been dissolved by the Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed, women failed to win seats in the very much male-dominated Islamic country. Now they eventually succeeded. Congratulations to former Minister of Health Massouma al-Mubarak, Salwa al Jassar and liberal candidates Aseel Awadhi and Rola Dashti!

The widely perceived retardation of scientific, cultural and human rights development in many if not most Islamic countries may be due to an important fact. In rapidly growing societies with population growth rates of between 3 and 5%, countries are soon evolving into, well, boys’ countries. The testosterone factor of the frequently unemployed, unmarried into their thirties and therefore profoundly unsatisfied young men, who have, if at least realistic, little hope for change, are running the society at the low-level, while male-dominated administrations try to keep this power under control only by restricting normal civil rights.

A typical example of a boys’ country is, of course, Saudi-Arabia. Despite undisputable rights for equal education women in Iran suffer from a mainly male-dominated and completely outdated interpretation of Shari’a family law. In particular, women rights movements there are brutally suppressed. Boys’ countries are undemocratic.

Yesterday’s Kuwait election is a flicker of hope after the previous very much annoying legislative period.

First published at Freelance.