Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Without respect for women's rights, there can be no democracy or peace in the Middle East

Edit Schlaffer, Executive Director of SAVE
Dear Women without Borders, dear SAVE sisters, dear friends,

Terrorism has become part of our life - the attacks on innocent commuters on the underground in Minsk, Belarus, is the most recent proof.

I am writing from the conference Preventing Terrorism: Developing Comprehensive Solutions to the Challenges of Radicalization in Dakar, where military and civil society actors, state representatives from across Africa, and experts from the West have come together to analyze growing radicalization and methods of containment. There is a lot of talk about the role of religion, and speaker after speaker stresses the fact that religion does not lead to terrorism.

Obviously what is driving youth radicalization from Yemen to Pakistan and Somalia is the perception of injustice. These real and perceived injustices feed into Al-Qaeda’s narratives and are part of their recruitment approach. Women and girls are still not key targets of radicalization and certainly should be recognized as part of the solution. Equipped with self-confidence and the right tools for debate they will be the driving force for moderation.

Anouar Boukhars, a US scholar of Moroccan descent brought to our attention in a very impressive way here in Dakar that the crushing of democratic hopes in Egypt will eventually lead not only to frustration but to anti-Western sentiments. This is a very timely warning. Men and women stood side by side in the Egyptian uprising, but shortly after Mubarak was forced to leave, new democratic hopes were put to the test. Women called for a rally to celebrate their success on the occasion of International Women’s Day, but they were beaten up and chased from Tahrir Square. The message is clear: thank you for the revolution, now go back home.

The rebels and revolutionaries have to keep in mind: Democracy is gender inclusive. This is our responsibility: to alert the international community to make sure that all sections of society are supported and represented equally in the political and social process.

Women are just as important for moderation as enlightened religious and other community leaders. When we call for more moderate forces to be brought to the forefront, women must certainly be recognized as valuable players in combating extremism. The voices and actions of women are in high demand - they represent a new global talent pool and are credible drivers against insecurity, radicalization and violent extremism.

With best wishes,

Edit Schlaffer and the Women without Borders / SAVE team

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Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS