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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Treatment of Women in the Arab World

More evidence today of the miserable treatment accorded to women in the Arab world.

An Israeli-Arab pediatrician and his four brothers - two of whom have already confessed - have been indicted for murdering their 20-year old sister in an 'honor killing.' And according to a United Nations Development Fund for Women study, an astounding one married woman in four in Syria is abused by her husband. Here's the 'honor killing' story:

According to the indictment, the eldest of the brothers, Suleiman Abu-Raanam, a pediatrician in Assaf Harofeh Hospital, [Do you want this guy treating your children? For the record, the percentage of Arab doctors among all doctors in Israel is increasing because of an 'affirmative action' program that goes beyond admissions to actually raising grades. The result is that it's easier for Arabs to get into medical school than it is for Jews, and once they are in, it is easier for them to stay in and graduate. CiJ] planned the murder and gave his brothers a sedative with which they drugged their sister.

The brothers allegedly choked their sister, and after they suspected she was dead brought her to an empty orchard near Rehovot. She allegedly woke up and began to beg for her life, to no avail.

Her brothers continued choking her until she was dead, and threw her body into a ditch.

Two of the brothers confessed to the murder, and one of the brothers re-enacted the incident in front of police.

Here's the Syrian story:

The study, conducted by the quasi-governmental General Union of Women was published in the Syrian media in order to increase awareness of domestic abuse, the New York Times reported.

A random sample of 1,900 Syrian women from all income levels and regions participated in the research. The women's spouses also participated in the study, though they were questioned separately from their wives.

Prior to the study, domestic violence was not seen as a problem in Syria. Spokesperson for the General Union of Women Hana Qaddoura, said that many Syrians did not believe that violence in the home "counted" as violence. Many of these cases were only seen as signs of a bad relationship.

Local women's rights activists noted that the importance of the findings were important, not because of the data revealed - the frequency of the problem did not differ greatly from that in other countries [In what other countries? Is one in four American women abused? European women? Israeli women? Why do I suspect that what's missing here is Arab women? CiJ] - but rather in the fact that the taboo had been broken. They said they would try to develop programs to protect the victims of spousal abuse.

The Times story gives much more detail. The following is what it says about this paragraph: "In Syria there was simply no data on violence against women; formal studies hadn't ever been done before," said Shirin Shukri, a manager of the project at the United Nations regional office in Amman, Jordan. "The issue of violence against women was kept silent here for many years. But we're making people in Syria aware that this is something that happens everywhere in Europe, in Asia, in the United States, and this is opening up discussion." [Somehow I doubt it happens with the same frequency with which it happens in Syria in any of those other places. CiJ].

Back to the Post:

Bassam al-Kadi, a rights advocate, hoped that in response to the study, there may be more openness to discuss violence against women, particularly the phenomenon of honor killings, in which women are killed by their own families for improper sexual conduct.

Kadi noted that in the past the topic was banned by Syrian media. Even when discussed privately, incidents of honor killings were referred to as "accidents." He expressed the hope that public discourse might now become more open to discuss these matters.


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