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Posts Tagged ‘leila trabelsi’

What (who) drives Muslim women

July 3rd, 2012 Comments off


top, Leila Trabelsi in Saudi Arabia; bottom, Leila Trabelsi with Ben Ali in Tunis, pre-Jasmine Revolution

The West has long had a fascination with Muslim women, from the Oriental harem beauties of Ottoman seraglios to immigrants who wear niqab in Europe. As some critics have noted, perhaps those who laud or victimize the role of women in Islam (as though there could be “the” role), should look at the patriarchy in their own societies. The ability to go out in public with less of the body covered may be a sign of freedom in mobility, but it is not automatically symbolic of equality in economic or political terms. Ethnographic study for almost a century has illustrated the kinds of social contexts in which women and men are closer to being egalitarian, but there is no one factor (including religion) that is causal. The books and commentaries on women in Islam continue to proliferate and will into the foreseeable future. But what about the situation today within Islamic countries?

By today, I mean the totally unscientific sense of an arbitrary internet experience. In checking out several websites this morning to see what I might comment upon, several items caught my attention. First, a Yemeni website shows a photograph of Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the exiled Tunisian president Ben Ali; both are now living in Saudi Arabia (top picture, above). The picture is pregnant with interpretive possibilities. The former elegant first lady is now regaled in hijab while mouse-clicking her way through cyberspace. In that vast digital archive, she can easily come across previous pictures of herself, like the one shown below her new Saudi makeover look. So is one of these pictures of Leila more Islamic than the other? Does the veil indicate intent; does living in Saudi Arabia signify a closer relationship to Allah? Perhaps if we knew what websites she was surfing, we would have more clues.

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Key developments in the Arab Spring Today

June 21st, 2011 Comments off

Tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets Monday to demand an end to the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and a move to a transitional government and elections. Saleh is recuperating in Saudi Arabia after surgery for injuries sustained in a rocket attack.

Among the demands of the demonstrators is the departure of the president’s sons, Ahmad Saleh and Khaled Saleh. Ahmad commands the dreaded presidential guard, and Khaled is also a military commander.

Bashar al-Asad on Monday gave his third national speech since the uprising against him began about three months ago, and it appears mainly to have made many of his countrymen more angry at him.

Euronews reports that al-Asad tried to distinguish between potential dialogue partners among his critics and those who, he said, were mere vandals and saboteurs. Al-Asad maintains that parliamentary elections will be held later this summer, but his family has presided over a one-party state since 1970 and many question how genuine his commitment to reform is.

President Abdullah Gul of Turkey slammed al-Asad for not opening his country faster to multi-party elections, showing Ankara’s increasing frustration with the Syrian leadership. Turkey under the Justice and Development Party had reached out to al-Asad and repaired relations with Damascus, allowing a big expansion in bilateral trade. But al-Asad is, from Turkey’s point of view, squandering all that progress and threatening Turkey’s economy by being so repressive and provoking a months-long uprising, as well as chasing dissidents over the border into Turkey, where they are an economic and political liability for the latter.

Deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidin Bin Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi have been sentenced by a Tunisian court to 35 years in prison for embezzlement. While it is clear that the president and the first lady were extremely corrupt while in office, it seems to me that the main purpose of the sentence is to ensure that Bin Ali does not attempt to return to the country, since he now would be arrested at the airport. Bin Ali gave a cock-and-bull interview maintaining that he only flew to Jidda last January to deliver his wife there, and had planned on returning but the plane left without him. Dear Zine: the country left without you.

This Observer editorial argues that the widespread availability of digital video recording devices, including those in smart phones, has allowed people abused by their governments to create an evidence trail that can then be deployed at forums like the International Criminal Court. Sri Lanka, Bahrain and Libya are singled out as governments that have committed war crimes against their people and where these have been recorded and disseminated by video.

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