Egyptian women today live in unimaginable misery. Please consider the following two statistics carefully: 99.3% of women in Egypt have been sexually harassed. 91%, which amounts to 27.2 million women, have undergone female circumcision during their adolescent years. This is according to a report published last week by the Thomson-Reuters Foundation, a report that ranked Arab countries in the world (22 countries) by their treatment of women. The world was surprised, as were we, to learn that of all the Arab countries in the world, Egypt was the country awarded the shameful distinction of being the “worst country to live in as a woman”. The numbers indicated by the report are shocking and the inhumanity they represent is incomprehensible.
Two clear conclusions emerge from this new report.
First of all, the more control a fundamental Islamic religious regime has over a country, the worse the quality of life is in that country for women. In support of this conclusion, it is sufficient to note that according to the laws of Sha’ariya, a woman is considered the property of her husband and is entirely subject to his authority. If a wife does not obey her husband, he is permitted to punish her with a beating. Even the courts in Jordan, a country considered modern and sympathetic in its treatment of women, turn a deaf ear to the petitions of women in regard to violence between husband and wife.
The second conclusion is that the uprising, referred to as “The Arab Spring”, was a beginning, not an end. It represents the birth pangs of an important process. At the end of this process, I believe that we will see more moderate and fair Arab regimes in the region. It will take time, but it will happen. It will be driven, in large part by shifting demographics. According to the UN’s data, more than 70% of the citizens of the Middle East are under the age of 30. This large segment of the population is connected to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They are a generation of young people, who are hungry and thirsty for information and education, who compare their standard of living with that of modern Western society, and they are losing patience with the brain washing tactics of their extreme dictators.
The Critical Mass of Discontent is Growing
These same young people constitute a critical mass, who will not allow the wars of their fathers to destroy the futures of their children. Thus, they will continue to expose corruption, to challenge the violent suppression of individual rights, and to fight for the dignity and freedom of all men, including those of neighboring countries. They yearn to build a future of peace and prosperity, and no one can stop them.
Anyone who has recently visited Ramallah and looked beneath the surface, understands that there are hundreds of thousands of young people in the Palestinian Authority, who are not at all interested in the “resistance.” They prefer to surf the web, absorb information and linger on social networks. This phenomenon is also affecting Israeli Arab citizens and, as a result, is positively influencing their attitude toward the Jewish State. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of young Arab Christians seeking to contribute to the country through full service in the IDF. In the words of a Christian Arab priest, Father Gabriel Nadaf, “it’s only natural that a country that keeps us safe is worthy of our volunteer service for its defense.” Well said.
So, in light of these sweeping demographic changes and consequent exposure to information, why do we continue to see such oppression, particularly of women, in Egypt?
Change is Just a Matter of Time
The answer is that the majority of these young people have not yet reached the age of 18, thus, they are not yet old enough to vote. And so, as we witnessed a year ago, there still lacked the small number of votes necessary to thwart the Muslim Brotherhood’s grasp of power. However, within 10 years, at the most, this generation will be able to tip the balance in elections and to lead revolutions in a completely different way. The Egyptian army may very well need to continue to function as a “guardian regime” until these young people reach the age that allows them to vote. Although it is not an ideal situation, as it is not a proper democracy, we all know that it is obviously a lesser evil than political control by a radical Islamic party. Women in Egypt know this best of all, as they bear the scars of Morsi’s regime on their flesh.
It is an empirical fact that democracies do not go to war with other democracies. In the coming years, the further the “Arab Spring” progresses and the more it bears fruit, the lower the chances will be that Israel will be required to defend herself from the aggression of her neighbors.
This has a direct bearing on our negotiations with the Palestinians. Despite the pressure currently being exerted on our government by our American friends, there is no need to rush. We need not make any more far-reaching concessions today to meet the demands of extreme leaders, who will probably not be there tomorrow. We should patiently wait for the coming generation of Middle-Eastern leaders, who we hope, will be true partners in peace.
The Palestinian people are not stupid. They see that while Ismail Haniyeh curses, swears and threatens Israel, he is also sending his beloved granddaughter to experts in Israeli hospitals for urgent medical treatment. The distance between the words spoken by these extreme leaders and their actions in practice, is exactly the space in which the young generations’ faith in such leaders slips away.