Taking the Long View on the Changing Status of Women in the Middle East

Saudi women journalists during a press conference by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 23, 2016 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).
Saudi women journalists during a press conference by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 23, 2016 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).
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The status of women in traditional Muslim societies, particularly Saudi Arabia, has long been an awkward source of cultural and political tension between the West and the oil-rich monarchies of the Arab world. Women’s roles are gradually changing as these states modernize, but more disruptive social change could well occur within a generation, as larger cohorts of educated women succeed in challenging social norms. Gender issues have been at the margins of U.S. relations with the Arab world for decades, and the mantra inside Western bureaucracies more generally has been that each society changes at its own pace. But while […]

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