If the world were a saner place than it is at present, Professor Phyllis Chesler would be a revered international heroine. Almost alone among American feminists--it shocks me to write that but it is true--she has stood up for the rights of women in the Middle East (she once lived in Afghanistan) and to expose the horrible practice of "honor killing" which has been spreading to the West with the Muslim immigration there.
It is a mystery to me why the women's movement has not taken up these two issues which so obviously, along with Female Genital Mutilation, relate to the most basic interests of those who make up slightly more than one-half the world's population. How could anyone who claims to be a feminist not speak out and wage a struggle over these problems?
Now Chesler has written about an important recent case which has received media coverage but only of the most superficial kind. She interviewed Asma’a Al-Ghoul, a Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip who was recently briefly arrested for appearing on a beach wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Four male friends of hers were arrested and beaten up by Hamas's religious police.
Ghoul is equally courageous having written about women's rights until, apparently, it cost her her job at al-Ayyam newspaper. In addition to her own interview, Chesler published for the first time in English an article by Ghoul, "Honor Killing is Permitted Socially and Legally: Gaza: Silence, Collusion and Shame for Female Victims, While Killers Enjoy the Sun and Freedom."
Both the Chesler and Ghoul articles deserve to be widely read. What will it take to get Western women's groups to support the rights of the most oppressed women in the world?
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle East (Routledge), The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).