10/25/2011, 00.00
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The women of the Arab Spring on the need to establish democracy

by Giulia Mazza
Bernard Sabella, a Catholic professor of sociology at Bethlehem University, analyzes the role of women in Middle Eastern countries: background figure, political activist or terrorist. Member States must ensure economic, social, cultural and educational security, not only military. On the Palestinian situation, the teacher says: "Men need women to create an independent state."
Rome (AsiaNews) - "The greatest lesson of the Arab Spring, whoever rises to power in these countries, is that if basic human rights are not respected, it is impossible to guarantee security to people”, reveals Bernard Sabella, a Catholic professor of sociology at Bethlehem University in Rome for the conference "Women agents of change in the South Mediterranean." The last Nobel peace prize, assigned to the Yemeni Tawakkul Karman (along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee); Saudi women given the vote (in four years), the 27 Palestinian women released as part of the prisoner swap for Shalit: the emergencies in the Arab world which emerged with the jasmine revolution and in some cases bent to the will of fundamentalisms, also have women protagonists.

"In Arab countries - said Sabella - women have the same problems as men, especially in terms of lack of opportunities and employment. Indeed, for them it is worse because more and more Muslim women are going to university, but then when they do not have the same opportunities as their colleagues to speak or get a job, it becomes natural that for them to question the nature of the social system and economy of the country in which they live. "

"Like it or not - continues the professor - traditional Arab women live in a patriarchal system, which tends to overshadow them and teach them that this culture and this religion offers them the best protection. But protection is not an answer to today's questions. "

In this sense, the recent moves by the Saudi government - which for the first time will allow women to vote and stand in the forthcoming elections, but they can not appear in campaign posters, and then maintains the ban on women driving – is not just schizophrenia on the part of those in power, but a problem rooted in society. "Even if the regime tries to help change the situation for women - he explains - there are conservative forces in society, (men and women) who are completely inconsistent. The situation for women is becoming a major policy issue: how you can envisage women driving, voting, occupying jobs without causing an internal reaction, which can lead to extremism and fundamentalism? ".

The professor points out that the state must deal with the labour market, education, health and equal opportunity: "Security can not be guaranteed by just the military. When you do not feel safe from an economic, cultural, social, educational point of view, and when you do not have a home and a proper education, and when you do not know how to read and write, then that government - regardless of how many weapons it buys to protect itself - will remain unstable. "

Finally, Sabella talks about the Palestinian situation, which traditionally sees women engaged in political struggle. At the time of the British Mandate (1920-1948), the elite took to the streets, today, women's activism is divided between religion and secularism, verging on terrorism: among the over one thousand prisoners released from Israeli prisons under agreement on Shalit (the young Israeli soldier captured by Hamas since 2006, ed), 27 were women.

The professor counts the numbers: "In the universities there are about 96 thousand women, against 79 thousand men. This means that there is a generation that decides what it wants to do, some political activism, others work in the legal sector, or perhaps in international NGOs. "

However, for Sabella the politics remains the greatest challenge: "We want an end to Israeli occupation and we want our own state. Palestinian men can not do it alone: Women need to address this challenge. "

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