Women of the Middle East

music When we say women in the Middle East, we
are actually talking about a diverse group. Being a woman is only a way of
defining a person. When we consider their ethnicity, religion, class, and different
combinations of these categories we’ll reflect a different picture of that
person, and time matters. For instance, a woman, being a woman from 16th century
Istanbul is quite different from being a woman in today’s Istanbul. So, I will
introduce you a different woman from the region with different experiences, from
the 20th century, from different professions to give you the idea the
diversity of women’s experiences in the region. A good example is a woman lawyer
and a human rights activist from Iran, Shirin Ebadi. She was born in Hamadan in
northern Iran in 1947 into a practicing Muslim family. She worked as a judge in
Iran until the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Then she was dismissed along with her
female colleagues because the new administration believed that Islam
didn’t allow women to serve as judges. Ebadi worked with the organizations to
help women and children and has been very outspoken about the issues related
to law in Iran. In 2000, she was imprisoned for disturbing the public
opinion and she spent 25 days in solitary confinement. Ebadi received
2003 Nobel Peace Prize award and she is the first woman to receive this award
from the Islamic world. One example is from the Arab world and she is
considered to be one of the greatest musicians in the Arab history. It is
Umm Kulthum. Umm Kulthum was born at the end of 19th century and
in 1975. She was considered to be the greatest voice of Egypt, the the star of
the East, or the forth pyramids in Egypt. She was born into a peasant family at an
early age she started singing and performing with the family in weddings
and religious gatherings, but soon her unmatchable voice was recognized and her
fame spread all over the country. She had to work hard to be accepted in the
entertainment circles in Cairo. After establishing herself she used her voice
to influence change in Egypt. She supported the 1952 revolution in Egypt
and Gamal Abdel Nasser ‘s presidency. Some say she is the reason Nasser’s was a
very popular political leader. In the wake of Egypt’s defeat by Israel in the
six-day war in 1967 she lent her support immediately because this was a tragedy
all over the country and on the Arab world and she performed all over the
Middle East and sent her proceeds to the Egyptian army. Umm Kulthum spent almost
all her life as a single woman in a male-dominated society, but she managed
to establish her herself as one of the most respected female figures in the
Arab history. A good example from the business world is Güler Sabancı from Turkey. Sabancı is the first chairperson of her
family business which is the largest industrial conglomerates in Turkey. She
was listed as the seventh most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine in
2016. Over the 40 years her
career she managed to steer clear her company from the economic and political
crisis in the country and managed to be the economic ambassador of Turkey in the
world. She talks about the difficulties of being a woman in the business world
both in Turkey and in the world. For instance, she talks about an
incident in 1985 when she wanted to have lunch at the Banker’s Club in London and
she was rejected because the club doesn’t accept women. She’s a leading
philanthropist who founded a university in Turkey called Sabancı University in
1994. She’s received many awards for her work, but her conviction is in fighting
for girls education. She says, “We are very fortunate today. This is the century of
us. This is the century of women.” Through these women’s stories, I wanted to point
out the diversity of women’s lives and women’s issues in the region, but the
similarity between among these women is that they all face challenges and
traditional rules of being women in their respective lives and in their
profession, but they all challenge those conditions and transform them and pave
the way for other women following them. For those reasons, they are the role
models not only in the Middle East, but all over the world.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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