Arab women driving Mideast protests, Arab journalist says

Arab women driving Mideast protests, Arab journalist says

LOS ANGELES — The protests sweeping the Middle East have been driven by a second revolution — the empowerment of Arab women — an Arab journalist told JTA.

“The visibility of women as change mobilizers, political leaders and activists, followers and supporters has never been as high as today,” Nadia al-Sakkaf, editor in chief of the Yemen Times, told JTA in an e-mail exchange.

The Times, the pioneer English-language newspaper in Yemen, has been an unrelenting critic of the entrenched government. It frequently runs favorable reports about Israel.

Al-Sakaff will be in Los Angeles and address a predominantly Jewish audience at the Leo Baeck Temple at the end of March.

In Yemen, one of the icons of the youth protests is a woman, Tawakul Karman, who with six other women has been staging freedom protests weekly for the past three years, Al-Sakkaf reports.

In Tunisia, too, where the regional wave of protests started, women also were on the frontlines from the beginning, she said.

In Egypt, and even more so in conservative Libya, women have remained largely in the background. But even in those countries, women have provided protesters with food, blankets and emotional support,” Al-Sakkaf said. “Some have been so creative as to bake bread and cookies inscribed with such words as “get out” and “game over.”

“In some isolated cases,” she wrote, “women have poured hot water from their windows on security men who were attacking the protesters.”

Al-Sakkaf, who worked her way up from reporter to the top job at the Yemen Times, has broken major stories, notably the exploitation of child brides in her country. She holds degrees in computer science and information systems management.

Joining Al-Sakkaf in Los Angeles will be Felice Friedson, president and CEO of the Jerusalem-based Media Line, which has correspondents throughout the Arab world.