x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Why can't women rule in the Arab world?

Other Arabic editorials discuss Syria's regime, the possibility of civil conflict in Yemen and Israel's "Spring".

Why can't a woman be an Arab president?

"Our Arab societies are patriarchal par excellence," columnist Zainab Hifni wrote in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad. "Rarely do you ever hear the question asked in earnest: 'What if we were governed by a woman?'" she wrote.

"The paradox is that women have never been that isolated from politics, and history bears witness to that. But most men prefer to doubt their merit; so they keep shouting their usual 'women are fragile' and 'lacking in reason and religious commitment'."

The issue resurfaced a few months ago when the Egyptian female author Anas el Wugood Alyouh announced on her Facebook page her intention to run for president. More recently Bouthaina Kamel, a radio reporter, expressed the same intention.

"Predictably, as soon as an Arab woman makes known her intention to run for office, the derision and the disdain break loose," the columnist said.

Even Egyptians forget, she wrote, that under Queen Hatshepsut's 20-year rule, ancient Egypt lived a golden age. In ancient Yemen, the Queen of Shebah was known for her wisdom and fair judgment. In Europe, Queen Victoria, who ruled over Britain for most of the 19th century, had that whole epoch named after her, in recognition of the importance of her reign.

Women must be given a chance; they may well be able to fix some of what men have ruined, the columnist concluded.

Syrian minister is still totally out of touch

As Bashar Al Assad's forces were ripping through Hama and other cities on Saturday, his foreign minister, Walid Al Muallem, was speaking in Damascus before Arab and foreign diplomats, trying to lay down forthcoming "reforms", wrote Tariq Al Homayed, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Mr Al Muallem, whose pledge of "we will forget that Europe exists on the map" is still fresh in memory, now blames the failure of national dialogue on the Syrian opposition's "negativism", the editor noted.

"This is just another load of silly sophistry, and a confirmation that the Syrian regime is beyond repair."

Mr Al Muallem's rhetoric calls to mind the Egyptian comedy where one character slaps another across the face and then says: "What? He smacked my hand with his cheek."

"This couldn't be more relevant to Mr Al Muallem's case," the editor wrote. "He goes after an opposition that is suppressed by all sorts of weapons, but not after Mr Al Assad's regime, which is killing Syrians."

The Syrian regime is certainly starting to feel the heat, however immune to criticism it may be. But mounting international pressure, and more recently the strong statement from the Gulf Cooperation Council, must be bolstered by a pan-Arab stance, whose tardiness is becoming steadily more disgraceful.

 

Spectre of civil war looms over Yemen

"The drums of civil war are pounding at Yemen's doors," the Sharjah-based paper Al Khaleej said in its editorial yesterday. "Recent developments point straight in that direction."

There are bloody confrontations between the presidential guard and various tribes around the capital, near the Sanaa International Airport. There are similar fights between armed groups supporting the youth uprising and the presidential guard in Taaz. There are constant altercations between the latter and Al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Abyan province.

"It shouldn't be too hard to see the perils at hand," the paper said. "With the regime still placing its chips on military force to solve what is really a political crisis, fears that Yemen's peaceful revolution turn into an armed conflict are justified."

Besides, part of the army that defected with Maj Gen Mohsin Al Ahmar has coalesced with tribal leaders. Is it possible that half of the Yemeni army will fight against the other half? "The answer will have to be yes," Al Khaleej said.

For its part, the Dubai-based Al Bayan newspaper editorialised yesterday this way: "If the state of chaos and the irresponsible political freeze in Yemen persist, the country will end up in a spiral of conflicts, fanned by a constitutional vacuum that leaves the doors open to all forms of meddling with Yemen's sovereignty."

 

Is an 'Israeli Spring' also under way now?

Many Palestinians have grown to believe that Israel is gradually becoming a "complete" Middle Eastern country, one that is affected by change in its Arab neighbourhood, columnist Mazen Hammad wrote in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

Protests over housing prices and living costs that Israel has been seeing for weeks now are thought to be Israel's version of the Arab Spring. But the thought does not go any further; Arabs in general think protests in Israel are "imitative" not "complementary".

"Even if Israel becomes a genuine part of the Middle East, it will never become part of the Arab world," the columnist said.

Some Israelis see in the Arab Spring a reminder that Arab calls for their legitimate rights can be strident. "It is with awe and confusion, not to say apprehension, that Israelis watch millions of Arabs hit the streets," he added.

The "Palestinian element" is latent in all Arab revolutions, especially in Egypt, the columnist went on. A number of Egyptian protests after the revolution were about the opening of the Rafah crossing. Or they conveyed anger at the sale of Egyptian gas to Israel at a quarter of its market price.

Still, there is no telling if the full-blooded drive for rights in the Arab world will affect the Israeli stance on Palestine.

 

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi

aelbahi@thenational.ae