In the latest runup-to-another-war news, the U.S. now has a dozen or more aircraft carriers and guided missile cruisers off the coast of Yemen. The reason we're once again rattling the sabre is to support Saudi Arabia, which is conducting military strikes against Iranian support for Yemeni rebels, even over President Obama's objections.
According to the Associated Press, an electronic billboard at an upscale Saudi mall mixes product ads with images of soaring F-16s in the background, while the new King Salman salutes the troops and declares his military manhood.
At the same time Salman declared war on the rebels, he also stepped up another longtime war -- the one his country has always waged on women. Even though our good friend Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive regimes on earth when it comes to the rights of their female citizens, the U.S. has long ignored that particular little detail in supplying all kinds of support.
Glorifying the current military campaign has worked to solidify citizens behind the king and the gender-apartheid status quo. The nationalist fervor whipped up by the combat has put calls for advancing women's rights on hold. People are backing up their new king's military campaign and expressing support for maintaining the long-time suppression of women. The reasoning? It's inappropriate to talk about such trivial issues as women's rights while the country is at war.
One Saudi rights activist told the AP reporter that before the military action began, a group of academics and other women were planning to launch a campaign this month challenging Saudi Arabia's male guardianship laws. (A woman's first guardian is her father, and when she marries, her husband. If widowed or divorced, a male relative must step in -- and it could even be an underage son.) The guardian's consent is necessary before a female can attend university, get married, travel abroad, take certain jobs and have some types of surgery, especially if reproduction is involved.
The push for reform has been suspended indefinitely. Women say they're afraid of being branded traitors in a time of war if they advocate for change during the conflict.
Even before the attacks were launched, Saudi women were worried that King Salman would halt what little progress they were making under the previous king. They told reporters last month they had hopes, but would wait and see. Now they have their answer.
If Saudi women's equality must wait on the absence of conflict in the Middle East, it's going to be a very long wait indeed.
President Obama is willing to commit military resources to back up the Saudi war on Yemeni rebels. But when it comes to their war on women, like every U.S. president before him, the Supreme Commander is missing in action.
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