You know how I’m planning that conference on Women, Freedom of Expression and the Middle East? Well, today I unveiled my proposal to a handful of the Middle Eastern students on campus. There was a student from Bahrain and a student from Saudi Arabia and a student from Jordan and an Iranian student who lives in Dubai, UAE… and then a handful of Americans in different capacities at the school. All female.
It was fascinating. I’m gonna rewrite my proposal. When I did research on the topic, when I Googled anything like “women freedom expression Middle East,” what came up was all the horror stories — the honor killings and the violations against human rights and the women who’ve been killed for being raped… and the students reminded me that that’s a part of the framing — of the way they get portrayed in the media. Yes, there are injustices and problems and archaic legal structures, but there are also through-the-roof literacy rates and far more University educated women than men among Iranian youth and there are female business owners in Saudi Arabia and successful female politicians and journalists in the region. There are resources and good stories and productive changes that should be highlighted to continue the progress being made to address the problems and challenges women face in the Middle East.
And these women are excited to take this out into the world to share it. They started chattering about who they could talk to and send it to and invite. I cautioned them, saying, “Well, we can’t just start inviting people because we don’t have any funding.”
And then the young woman to my right, a bright, articulate, beautiful student I’ve had in several classes said, “I’ll just give it to Queen Rania.”
I ask you, Why didn’t I think of that?!