Thursday, February 25, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits the Middle East

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent tour through the Middle East has prompted much discussion, including conversations about women’s rights in the region.

Before embarking on her trip, Secretary Clinton spoke at the International Conference on Afghanistan in London on January 28, where she spoke about women’s roles in bringing change to Afghanistan:

“I also believe very strongly, as is apparent in what I say about this issue, that women have to be involved at every step of the way in this process. To that end, I unveiled our Women’s Action Plan. It includes initiatives focused on women’s security, women’s leadership in the public and private sector; women’s access to judicial institutions, education, and health services; women’s ability to take advantage of economic opportunities, especially in the agricultural sector. This is a comprehensive, forward-looking agenda that stands in stark contrast to al-Qaida’s recently announced agenda for Afghanistan’s women, attempting to send female suicide bombers to the West.”

This excerpt, along with Clinton’s full remarks from the event, can be found here.

Although women’s rights and leadership were discussed at the Afghanistan conference, the New York Times reports that while in Saudi Arabia on February 16, those subjects did not come up when Clinton visited a women’s college in Jidda. “Maybe because it was Hillary Clinton, people wanted to ask her about issues bigger than whether Saudi women can drive,” student Duaa Badr suggests. Check out the full article here.

Finally, while Clinton’s comments about Iran “moving toward a military dictatorship” picked up plenty of media coverage, it is a recently proposed “Family Protection” bill in Iran that has angered the Iranian women’s website Change for Equality (also known as One Million Signatures.) The bill would allow men in Iran to take additional wives without the knowledge or consent of their first wives. Change for Equality is collecting signatures for a petition here. For more coverage of the protest against the bill, check out recent coverage in the New York Times.

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