Voices from the Arab press: Kuwait on International Women's Day

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 WOMEN ENTER the Kuwait Boursa trading hall in Kuwait City. (photo credit: Stephanie McGehee/Reuters)
WOMEN ENTER the Kuwait Boursa trading hall in Kuwait City.
(photo credit: Stephanie McGehee/Reuters)

KUWAIT ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, March 8

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There are many rights that Kuwaiti women lack. They still suffer from widespread doubts about their ability to work in certain professions. They are still barred from taking on jobs in the defense industry that are open to their male counterparts, such as the National Guard, the army, firefighting and emergency medical services.

We also find a lack of women’s presence on the boards of companies, institutions, cooperations and social unions, as well as in senior positions in our local and national political system.

The list goes on and on: Kuwaiti women aren’t represented in municipal courts; they have no sport clubs or groups dedicated to them; the rights enshrined to them by law are far fewer than those provided to men; they have difficulty dealing with inheritance, property ownership and even with obtaining citizenship.

Kuwaiti women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence or honor killings.

 SAUDI CROWN PRINCE Mohammed bin Salman. (credit: BAHRAIN NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) SAUDI CROWN PRINCE Mohammed bin Salman. (credit: BAHRAIN NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

On March 8 of each year, developed countries around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to the achievements of women and to the laws protecting their rights. In some countries, such as China, employees receive an official public holiday to mark the occasion. In the US, the day is marked by formal announcements and various public events. In Italy, there is a tradition of handing out flowers to women on that day.

International Women’s Day was observed for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911. It gained further momentum on March 8, 1917, when women textile workers in Russia began a demonstration and demanded “Bread and Peace” – an end to World War I, to food shortages and to tsarism.

In March 1975, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming an International Day for Women’s Rights and Peace. Since then, the day commemorates the cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of women around the world.

It is my hope that this year on International Women’s Day the Kuwaiti public will embrace the tradition of celebrating women and their achievements and join the battle of eliminating the barriers experienced by women in Kuwait in all aspects of life. – Ghadeer Mohammed Asiri 

RUSSIA AND EUROPE – BEFORE AND AFTER UKRAINE

Al-Ittihad, UAE, March 9

The only way to make sense of Russia’s actions against Ukraine is through the concept of “Lebensraum,” which was Imperial Germany’s strategy of geographic and territorial expansion at the expense of its neighbors, during the World War I.

In essence, this means surrounding the Russian Federation with a pro-Russian sphere of influence – a policy that was true in Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, as well as in Siberia and the Baltic republics.

The other concept that might apply here is that of “strategic depth,” which describes the geographical distance between a country’s battlefront and its key centers of population.

This idea isn’t new either. Israel seized the Syrian Golan Heights under the pretext of securing its strategic depth.

Although former German chancellor Angela Merkel was the main advocate of the EU’s partnership with Russia, one of her advisers told me in 2015 that the chancellor was very concerned about the events of 2014-2015, when Moscow not only took Crimea but created two separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

The fact that the US has long given up on the idea of expanding NATO didn’t deter Russian forces from invading Ukraine with tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy military equipment.

Now, European states are feeling threatened, as they watch the Russian army completely undermine the sovereignty of a European nation. Britain and France have been particularly concerned about this precedent, although the danger is far greater to the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and perhaps to Poland and Moldova.

European countries are already rethinking their strategy and reevaluating their priorities. Germany, which stopped the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from being developed, intends to strengthen its army with €100 billion of various investments. Sweden, Finland and other countries are seeking to join NATO or, at a minimum, the EU.

In any case, there is no longer anyone in Europe, even Hungary, who desires rapprochement or partnership with Russia! – Radwan al-Sayed 

RELIGIOUS REFORMS LED BY SAUDI ARABIA

Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, March 10

In his recent interview with the American magazine The Atlantic, HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman touched upon the issue of religious reform in Saudi Arabia with a frankness and courage that no leader before him ever did.

The Saudi state, since its inception, has been based on the concept of religious reform. This religious reform has been built on major foundations, the most important of which are the religious legitimacy of the regime and the separation of powers between the state’s civil and religious judiciaries.

One of the fundamentals of the division in the Islamic world between extremist Muslims and the rest of the Muslims is the hadith, a collection of traditions containing sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, which constitute the major source of guidance apart from the Koran. The fact of the matter is that the number of oft-cited hadiths doesn’t exceed several hundred. And yet there are thousands of hadiths circulating around that have never been proven. These have been used to justify and legitimize many injustices that took place across the Muslim world, including those committed by al-Qaeda, ISIS and others.

In his interview, His Highness explained the need to prevent the spread of illegitimate hadiths that serve as the basis for these criminal acts. He suggested concentrating Islamic constitutions and laws on the Koran and eliminating many hadiths that may be incorrectly construed or interpreted.

Based on this interpretation, only 10% of the valid hadiths would remain – namely, those converging with the Koran. In addition, some Islamic laws would disappear, such as stoning, scourging and amputating the hands of thieves, as well as Islamic criminal laws, such as the death penalty to infidels and homosexuals.

This is where the Islamic world diverges into two paths. There is one world that ensures religion continuously evolves to meet modern civil life, and there is another world – led by extremist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood – that seeks to impose a strict and violent interpretation of Islamic law on its people. The latter leads to the implosion of society by undermining our shared Muslim and Arab culture, which serves as the basis for our coexistence. – Wafa al-Rasheed

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.