Arab women say they'll be better off after the revolutions

Women's prospects in the Middle East are brighter now than before the Arab revolutions, a young audience at the award-winning Doha Debates voted last night.

The motion 'This House believes women will be worse off after the Arab revolutions' was resoundingly rejected 26% to 74% in a lively debate that repeatedly raised the question of whether women would face new restrictions from the rise of political Islam.
In Tunisia, Islamists have already risen to power, while in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the strongest political force, with women losing around 50 seats in the new parliament.
Arguing for the motion was Tunisian women's rights campaigner Khadija Arfaoui and ImanBibars, co-founder of the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women, Egypt's first microfinance organization.
Both argued that harassment and intimidation of women was on the rise in their countries, driven by a new, hardline, Islamist agenda.

Debates about women wearing headscarves on television, and protests at a Tunisian university over the full-face veil were warnings of a return to stricter Islamic values, Arfaoui said.

"We want different things, that's okay, that's democracy," cried fiery Egyptian political activist and academic Rabab El Mahdi, saying that at least people in a post-revolutionary world were free to debate and stand up for what they believed in.

Speaking against the motion, El Mahdi and Libyan academic AmalJerary argued that women were the driving force of the Arab uprisings and that they would eventually have greater freedom through the democratic change they helped inspire.
"Women made those revolutions which brought the so-called fundamentalists to power, and they will be able to define and defend their rights and interests," El Mahdi said.
Any improvement in women's rights would take time, Jerary conceded, saying that a year ago she would have been unable even to appear on television to debate the subject."It's not going to be easy; I'm not saying it is going to happen overnight."

The award-winning Doha Debates, now in their eighth year, are a free-speech forum dedicated to offering young Arabs the opportunity to discuss major questions that affect their lives. The series has been broadcast on BBC World News since January 2005, reaching nearly 400 million people in more than 200 countries.

The debates are hosted and financed by Qatar FoundationQatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

About The Doha DebatesThe Doha Debates are a unique forum for free speech in the Arab world. Chaired by Tim Sebastian, the internationally renowned award-winning broadcaster, the series has been broadcast on BBC World News since January 2005.

The Doha Debates are hosted and funded by the Qatar FoundationQatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. The Foundation is a private chartered organization committed to the belief that a nation's true wealth is in the potential of its people. Chaired by Her Highness SheikhaMozahbint Nasser al Missned, the wife of the Emir, it seeks to develop that potential through a network of centres devoted to education, public health and research. For more information please visit: http://www.thedohadebates.com/

Qatar FoundationQatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development is a private, non-profit organization that is supporting Qatar on its journey from carbon economy to knowledge economy by unlocking human potential for the benefit of not only Qatar, but the world. Founded in 1995 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa AlThani, Amir of Qatar, QF is chaired by Her Highness SheikhaMozabint Nasser.
QF carries out its mission through three strategic pillars: education, science and research, and community development. QF's education pillar brings world-class universities to Qatar to help create an education sector in which young people can develop the attitudes and skills required for a knowledge economy. Meanwhile, its science and research pillar builds Qatar's innovation and technology capacity by developing and commercializing solutions through key sciences. Finally, its community development pillar helps foster a progressive society while also enhancing cultural life, protecting Qatar's heritage and addressing immediate social needs in the community.

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© Press Release 2012