Mona Lisa Mouallem
At the 15th annual Women in the World conference, held in New York City last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced her concern about the future of women’s rights in the Middle East:
"In recent weeks, we have seen women on the front lines of progress in Egypt and Tunisia. Some of the earliest organizers ... that helped galvanize Egypt and Tunisia were smart, wired and committed young women. But unfortunately, in both countries, there is a very real danger that the rights and opportunities of women could be eroded in this transition period."
Indeed, in the aftermath of the revolutions, women have been sidelined from the formation of the new governments.
In Tunisia, only two women have been appointed to the transitional government. Ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had far more women in his cabinet. Conservative voices in Tunisia are also calling for the scaling back of Tunisia's Personal Status Code, a series of laws that have protected women's rights in the country for more than 50 years.
In Egypt, not a single woman has been appointed to the council in charge of revamping the old constitution. And when Egyptian women called for a million-woman march seeking equal rights for all Egyptians, only a few hundred showed up last week. These women were greeted by a large group of men hurling misogynistic insults.
The fact that Middle East revolutions are not heralding improvements in women’s rights may come as a surprise. After all, it was only a few weeks ago that women and men were protesting side by side in Tunis, pitching up tents in unison in Tahrir Square, and bringing food and water to those who couldn't leave the demonstrations.
So why – despite their important role in bringing about change – are Arab women getting sidelined now?
There are several possible answers.
Mona Lisa Mouallem
Associate Producer, Fareed Zakaria GPS
I am a huge lover of music. Like so many people around the globe, the soundtrack to my childhood was made up in good part of Michael Jackson’s records. My brother Joe and I danced to Thriller for hours on end in our living room. I understood, at a very young age, how talented Michael was and as I grew up I watched Michael continue to inspire millions in every corner of the planet with his unparalleled music, style and message.
So when people ask me ‘what is the greatest moment of your life thus far’, I do not hesitate for one moment: it was the night I got to play the piano for Michael Jackson.
Let me back up a little. Michael and my dad became friendly when he moved to New York in 2001 to record his album, Invincible. While I am well aware of the many controversies that surrounded Michael Jackson’s life, they had no bearing on the evenings that my family and I got to spend with him. My family was lucky enough to get to know him and his beautiful, lovely children, away from the flash of cameras and the chants of fans.
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