By Iqbal Tamimi
Women, who have access to media, were delighted to watch the celebration ceremony held in Washington DC, acknowledging the courage of 10 women by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the First Lady Michelle Obama who presented the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards. Though one can’t help but noticing few things about this Award.
Shad Begum from Pakistan, Hana Elhebshi from Libya, Samar Badawi from Saudi Arabia, Aneesa Ahmed of Maldives, Hawa Abdallah Mohammed Salih from Sudan and Safak Pavey of Turkey were winners of the award of courage. Can anyone detect something in common between them all?
The vast majority of winners were Muslim women; and almost all photos circulated for media publicity of Mrs Obama and Mrs Clinton and the winners, were of the winners who were wearing a Hijab. The expressions used during the ceremony and in US media, described the Muslim winners not as social activists; but as political activists with emphasis on words such as, militants and deeply conservative areas.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama have called for a "crescendo of voices" to support equal rights for women, while welcoming the 10 winners to the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony at the State Department in Washington.
Is it really true that there are no courageous women in the West at all? Not even one woman from USA or Europe? That was a real disappointment. Aren’t there any courageous Muslim women who are not wearing hijabs as well? Courage, according to the State Department in Washington, seems to be connected with surviving in a conflict zone or where there are women confronting ‘Islamists’. The Western women who fight for women’s rights, social justice, improving services and reforming laws seems not to be worthy of the Courage Award, from the perspective of the USA State Department.
Secretary Clinton noted that all 10 women have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of women and girls. She should have considered adding an important note, explaining that the improvements those women have brought to their communities, were necessary as a consequence of USA government’s damage to their nations while trying to control the third world and force its own policies on the region. Trying to reflect USA as a government that is doing its best to support third world women’s emancipation and using them as a step on its way to bleach its record of horrors will never work.
I wonder why the Award has dropped the names of Iraqi and Palestinian women. Is it because USA is ashamed of the amount of suffering it has brought upon those women and their children, that not reminding the world of its own atrocities would have been an intelligent decision. The least of its benefits is not to remind the USA citizens of what their government has been spending their tax money on.
The Award did not even acknowledge the US women activists and freedom fighters who are working tirelessly as volunteers under the most difficult and life threatening circumstances to save people’s lives. Some of whom were murdered in cold blood, by USA closest allies, like the young courageous Rachel Corrie, the American young woman who was crushed under an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza Strip while protesting against collective punishment of Palestinian families, when the Israeli occupying authorities were demolishing their homes.
Clinton noted, some of the winners were also imprisoned and abused for their efforts. What a co incidence, there are women who suffered exactly that under USA invasion of Iraq. It seems Clinton has a selective memory that she has forgotten all about Abu Ghraib prison and its abuses. She even hailed the Sudanese winner and attributed the reason for her receiving the courage award to the fact that she was living in a refugee camp for displaced Darfurians and becoming the voice of women refugees. Even BBC selected her of all winners to speak about the horrors in Sudan. It was clear where the interview was going, when the presenter brought up a story about her claiming that she was forced to carry the bible, and had her photo taken to use it as a pressure tool against her. What a naïve approach to gain sympathy. Just a reminder, when USA called for persecuting the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir In July 2008, and the International Criminal Court (ICC), accused him of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, USA’s own president, President, Bush, was carrying a genocide criminal attacks on civilians, using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One wonders, why the US first lady and Secretary of State as well ignored the abuse of women in Bahrain and did not remember the courageous women of Bahrain. Is it because the Bahraini regime is USA ally? What about the courage of Palestinian women who lived for many years in refugees’ camps in horrible conditions, including those who were forced to live in the middle of the nowhere, in the desert at the borders between Iraq, Jordan and Syria, watching their children die while fighting the worst conditions a human can encounter. What about the Palestinian women who survived torture in Israeli jails, giving birth while chained, imprisoned for many years without proper legal procedures, conviction or trial, denied family visits, medical care and legal support. Aren’t they courageous enough?
The US State Department introduced Shad Begum as “a courageous Pakistani human rights activist and leader who has changed the political context for women in the extremely conservative district of Dir.” Someone named jalaluddin S. Hussain commented on this by writing online ‘The reality is drones of USA has killed many innocent people In Pakistani border areas and for that the American Pentagon should tried by the ICJ for war crimes!’
Another recipient,’ Maryam Durani of Afghanistan, comes from the Kandahar province, among the country’s most conservative and most dangerous areas. But that has not stopped Ms Durani from speaking out for the rights of Afghan women and girls, the State Department noted.
I guess the first and most important right of women and girls is to keep their brothers and fathers alive, but USA has done quite the opposite. Many women were left widowed, carrying the burden of taking care of a number of orphans on their own, thanks to USA, God representative on Earth who decides who should remain alive and whose murder is justified.
I believe the fake display of hugging and caring for women of the third world should stop. Hard working courageous women are not even spotted by the US media so that they can be identified or chosen to participate in such hoo-ha. They are working tirelessly, in their small forgotten communities. Some are denied essential services such as electricity, hence they can’t follow the news, let alone be under the media spot light.
USA was the cradle of the image created by Hollywood for Muslim women as a bunch of Harem, abused, ignorant and weak. Now it has figured out after the revolutions that took place last year in the Middle East, toppling the USA own puppets, that it would be wise to switch its policies, and celebrate the same veiled women who used to be connected through its own media with terror and backwardness. Those are the same women USA has refused to support or help when they were suffering under the dictators who happen to be USA allies …
No, but thanks. The women of the ‘Third World’ know how courageous they are without your recognition.
Iqbal Tamimi/Director of Arab Women Media Watch in UK