The word democracy comes from the Greek words demos (meaning “people”) and kratos (“rule”). It literally means rule by the people. It is a word that makes us feel that we are equals in society, that we have agency and a voice to choose our own rules and rights.
In this exciting time when Syria, Egypt, Libya and Jordan are over-throwing the old regimes in favor of a democracy, it is important to remember that currently, the only real democracy in the Middle East exists in Israel. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where minority citizens can live democratically. The Israeli Arab population is given equal democratic rights as every other citizen – the same cannot be said for the countries that are currently developing a democracy.
While women are not literally ‘minority’ citizens (after all, we are more than fifty percent of the population) they are certainly treated as minorities in Arab Middle Eastern countries. As a result, it is important to reflect upon the status of women when it comes to these new Middle Eastern democracies. A true democracy, like Israel, ensures that all citizens are entitled to equal rights.
Queen Rania of Jordan has spoken about the current democracy in Jordan and the new role of women in politics there. The reality is that Queen Rania is speaking from her privileged position where she may actually see some changes, but the average Jordanian woman is likely not experiencing the change that Queen Rania is telling the world.
This move toward democracy is a huge opportunity for the Middle East, but it is also a scary one. If a burgeoning democracy is not monitored, extremists can abuse this opportunity to be ‘elected’ to power – look at Adolf Hitler. Hitler was ‘voted’ to be the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party.
We are a start up nation -- our nation brought about communication platforms like ICQ that helped to bridge the gaps in distance and culture. Let us help our neighbors grow their democracies using innovative communication technology platforms and help share our experiences as a 63 year-old democratic country to develop their own.
God Bless the only true democracy in the Middle East -– Israel.