Throughout the Islamic world, women are fighting for rights they have never had. The only exception is in Iran, where women fight for rights that the regime took away. While hopes for democracy in Arab states have never been so great, the future of the region’s women is precarious. The victory of Ennahda, an Islamist party, in Tunisia has raised concerns in that North African country, until now one of the most liberal on women’s issues in the Arab world. That the leader of the new ruling party pledges moderation and suggests Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, better known by its Turkish acronym AKP, might provide a model for Ennahda’s rule is of little comfort: After all, as even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upholds Turkey as a model for the region, Turkish women know that the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent since the AKP took power; child marriage is also increasing.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee sought to assuage concerns about women’s fate in the Arab Spring when it awarded the Nobel Prize to Tawakkul Karman, a Yemeni protest leader active in the Islah Party, Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. Thorbjoern Jagland, who heads the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee, acknowledged that Karman was a symbol honored to make a political point. He told the Associated Press that including Karman in the prize was meant to “signal that the Arab Spring cannot be successful without including the women in it.” Noting that Karman belonged to a Muslim movement with links to an Islamist movement “which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy,” he suggested instead that instead, he believed the Muslim Brotherhood to “be an important part of the solution.”