Dr. Elham Manea is a Swiss-Yemeni Muslim reformer, human rights activist and academic who researches and speaks out against Islamism – the dangerous ideology facing Western society. She works at the Political Science Institute at the University of Zurich and is a consultant for Swiss government agencies and international human rights organizations. Recently, she has been appointed by the Swiss Federal Council as a Member of the Federal Commission for Women Affairs.
In her lecture, Dr, Manea focused on the rights of women and family laws in the Middle East, and how they reflect the larger political realities in the region. The content of the lecture was based on field work she did in Syria and Yemen, prior to the civil wars in both countries.
Dr. Manea argued that the apprehension of Arab Governments to reform family laws is, in part, to do with the sectarian, religious, tribal and other divisions that are so present in the MENA region. She gave the example that you cannot intermarry between different religions in Arab States. She believes this is the case for two reasons: 1) Arab authoritarian regimes are very opportunistic and Machiavellian in their gender politics and 2) Islamism has a principal position towards the gender issue that has further complicated the issues of women’s emancipation in the Arab state. Because Islamists have come to power in so many Arab States (Ex. Egypt, Iran, etc.), these oppressive gender and family laws remain in place. Those of other political leanings are forced to comply because they fear what might happen were they to do otherwise.
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