What About Women?

I have your November-December 1990 issue and your special packet, “Crisis in the Gulf.” They are both excellent but they do not have much on one very important area of concern: women.

In particular, I would like to see an article on the women of Iraq. In Sisterhood Is Global, Robin Morgan covers Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran, but not Iraq. I have heard that women do not have to wear a veil and do participate in the military. I know the National Organization of Women has some information, but not much. Also, since Robin Morgan’s book was published in 1984, we could use an update on the other countries I named.

Lee Heller
San Francisco

On Samir al-Khalil

I read Samir al-Khalil’s rebuttal to MERIP’s first Gulf crisis editorial (MER 166 and 168) and was left uncomfortable by the simplicity to which he seems to reduce the Iraq vs. the Whole World bout.

As an Arab, I share al-Khalil’s evident disdain for Saddam Hussein — a repressive tyrant of the kind which has hampered the social progress of Arab society and impeded intellectual discourse. As a Lebanese, my view of the man gets worse, since he bankrolled a good part of the tragedy that has devastated Lebanon.

What has now taken place in the Gulf, however, is not about Saddam Hussein. Al-Khalil has eloquently reported the physical and psychological brutalities perpetrated by the Iraqi regime, but has let his passion thin out his argument here. He does not address the one issue that is now on every Arab’s mind: What exactly was this formidable Western military assault all about?

It seems to me utterly naive to accept the notion that the amassed troops sweated it out in the desert only to restore the sovereignty of Kuwait. Few Arabs condoned Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. But if one were to look at things from behind God’s shoulders, then it would seem that Iraq’s action is accepted behavior. There is Israel, with its portable borders, and we don’t see a million and a half soldiers stacked in the desert to restore peace and justice there. What we do see is an obscene and hypocritical double standard by those who armed Saddam to the teeth while he served their agenda, turned a blind eye to Iraqi atrocities, and for years have made a mockery of the UN and its many resolutions.

What do the owners of the UN plan intend to do about the Palestinian question? President Bush’s answer — to the effect that “we are not talking about this now” — was like a parent brushing off an inconvenient question from a five-year-old. It is precisely this consistent Western condescension when dealing with Arab issues that has gotten Arabs fed up and caused them to rally around Saddam.

While the class issue of “haves and have-nots” clearly enters the equation, what common Arabs fear most is what appears to be Washington’s principal objective in the Gulf: the destruction of a major Arab military power and further fragmentation of Arab society. The US will preserve its presence in the Gulf, make the rich Arabs pay for its presence and control the flow of a valuable Third World resource to Japan and Europe.

Reducing the significance of such events to the persona of Saddam Hussein, as al-Khalil did, places a thick smoke screen over the issues at hand. The misfortune of the Kuwaitis over which al-Khalil frets is a way of life to thousands of Arabs and millions of human beings. Remedying such sufferings, unfortunately, does not come about simply by eliminating the Saddams of the world. It takes a sincere commitment to justice and decency, especially on the part of those nations who have always managed to leave at least one fingerprint on any mischief that has befallen humanity over the last few hundred years. Samir ai-Khalil’s work usually reflects thoughtful insight. In this case, I was unpleasantly surprised by his inability to look beyond the obvious.

Bassam Fawaz
New Hyde Park, NY

From Morocco’s Prisoners of Conscience

The American people must know that this war in the Gulf is directed against all Arab peoples and that it is condemned by them all. You must not believe that the pro-American positions of some Arab leaders express the Arab peoples’ will. You must know that this war is directed against the peoples of the south and that it aims at enforcing a “new international order” based on enslavement and plunder, while the peoples of the south ask for a fair and more human new world order based on their rights to self-determination, to control of their riches, to development — in a word, to their destiny….

We, political prisoners in the Prison Centrale of Kenitra, Morocco, call on you to struggle.

Tahar Douraidi, Ali Idrissi Kaiouni, Lahbib Benmalek, Ahmed Ait Bennacer, Hassan Alami Baute, Abdelfattah Bouqourou; Mohamed Srifi, Abraham Serfaty, Omar Fahli, Abdullah El Harif, Ahmed Rakiz, Abdelghani Kabbaj, Abdelilah Benabdesslam, Ahmed Khyari.

Cheesy Translation

A slight correction to the translated caption of the Egyptian cartoon on p. 20 of your January-February 1991 issue (MER 169). The Arabic caption mentions a traditional aged Egyptian cheese, gibna mish, not “no cheese,” as your caption read, even though part of the name of the cheese, mish, roughly translates to “no”!

Wail Malaty
Harlingen, TX

Editor’s Note: Thanks for the correction. We also managed to switch the captions on two photos in that issue, so that a barley harvest was labeled “sugarcane harvest” and vice versa. Our apologies to the photographers.

How to cite this article:

"Letters," Middle East Report 170 (May/June 1991).

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