It was news when Queen Rania of Jordan led a rally of 400 women to hand over a protest note to the U.N. office in Amman over Zionist terrorism in Occupied Palestine. However, it was seen as an official attempt to tell the Jordanian people that the government had done its due and further popular protests were crushed with an iron fist.
Another such event was organized by the Ras Al Khaimah Women's Club where Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ras Al Khaimah - crown prince and deputy ruler - spoke at a rally that was attended by thousands in the emirate. When the procession that commenced from the club and ended at Sheikh Zayed mosque reached Sheikh Khalid's palace, he and his three daughters joined in.
Such symbolic participation from Arab women is being eclipsed by the vocal uprising on Arab women in the Arab media. Considering the reality that the rulers tightly control the Arab media, especially in the "oildoms," nothing can even be whispered without royal assent.
Therefore, the publication of articles by Arab women-obviously younger ones educated in the West-that are highly critical of the U.S., the crutch that keeps them in power, is highly significant.
Some quarters may dismiss the often-violent Bahraini protest as being influence by a pro-Iran faction but the brazen declaration of open war against U.S.-backed Zionist terrorism will have its tremor felt wide.
Among the voices heard for an end to American support for terrorism in Occupied Palestine was Jeddah-based Professor Afnan Fatani, a Saudi professor of English language and style, who closed her scathing criticism of American support of Zionist terrorism, telling the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia:
... we do not care if we incur the wrath of your President Bush. We do not care if you deny our citizens a U.S. visa or freeze their assets in American banks. We do not care if our children never attend your schools and your universities or our tourists never enjoy the wonders of Disneyland or Universal Studios. What we care most for is our faith, our dignity and our sacred homeland.
He who granted victory to David against Goliath, to Moses against Pharaoh, to Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] against Abu Lahab, will grant victory to the warriors of Palestine against Sharon and Bush and those who sponsor them. Beware Mr. Ambassador that the curse promised by the Lord to the misbehaving children of Israel [Deut. 28] does not fall upon your own heads.
In a further affirmation of her strength, Professor Fatani concluded, "Here is my signature. Here is my name. Let it be the first name listed in this letter of protest and indignation. See! I am not afraid. I dare to speak. Along with Israel Shamir, I call for citizens to take arms against the bloody dictator Sharon. If and when this petition ever reaches your embassy doorstep, I am confident the list of names will have grown and grown and grown."
In a country where dissent is forbidden, Fatani spoke eloquently and named names in her criticism of America's anti-Palestinian and anti- Muslim policies. It was perhaps that being a woman of influence she was allowed to exercise her right of self-statement. She has other sisters in action, women like Nourah Abdul Aziz Al-Khereiji wrote:
Mr. Bush, if you truly believe that Sharon, the indiscriminate murderer and oppressor of Palestinian youths, children and elderly men, is a man of peace then it is the end to peace.
If you believe that Sharon, who masterminded the murders of Sabra and Shatila, is a man of peace, it is goodbye to peace. Palestinian women have been murdered by Sharon because they have destroyed their own bodies, the only weapon remaining with them, amidst the enemy in response to the call for martyrdom which you call terror. You may turn every stone upside down, uproot every tree, demolish every house and blow up every grain of sand in the land of Palestine but the Palestinians wi but the Palestinians will fight until every usurper and occupier is driven from their territories. I also warn you that Muslims and Arabs look forward to the hour when Allah removes from their rulers' hearts their fear of you. Then they will open the road to Palestine for a jihad, which will ultimately lead them to the Paradise they yearn for even as you fear death.
Like her fellow Saudi sister, she too published her name and even her e-mail address. Such outspokenness was unknown in the Kingdom, especially among women.
In another op-ed piece titled "We should do more than donate money to Palestinians," she chided the Arab rulers, saying, "The gross negligence on the part of the Arabs, who feared even engaging in border skirmishes with the aggressors, undoubtedly encouraged the Israelis."
Defending the "martyrdom of suicide-bombers," she wrote:
Do not be surprised when I say President George W. Bush has assumed the role of a "mufti" of a religion to which he does not belong. Only Bush - not any Muslim scholar - issued the religious ruling that the suicide bombers were simply more dead bodies - never martyrs. I am not sure of Bush's qualifications to speak for his own religion. If it means anything to him, how could he have allowed the Church of the Nativity and other highly esteemed churches to be attacked? I request you, Mr. President, to take care of your pet dog. As for Islam, it has its own scholars who have ruled that the suicide bombers are martyrs. Whoever usurps our land and occupies it is an enemy who deserves to be fought until he gives it up.
Her powerful piece asked:
When will you Arab rulers become angry and boycott the enemy diplomatically, commercially and even in tourism? Why this reluctance to break agreements with the Zionists? The Holy Qur'an tells us that they have broken covenants with us in the past and will do so again in future. You rulers have severed relations with your own Arab brethren on the flimsiest of issues while currently the vital issues of our religion and the destiny of the Palestinian people are at stake. Our people are furious with Israel and America. They demand a boycott of Israel and America. They want a jihad in Palestine. At the same time, you rulers argue about the Arab foreign ministers' meeting. You should do more than donate money to the Palestinians.
We, who are angry at the silence of some of our rulers, have nothing to offer but money and blood. It is, however, in our power to boycott enemy products. To do so might mean sacrificing our own vanity and desires.
Clearly Alkheriji and indeed her publisher, Arab News, have taken daring steps because she has done the unthinkable, chided the Arab rulers in their own captive media.
Still another powerful voice is Reem Alfaisal, who describes herself as Jeddah-based photographer. Expressing her frustration over Arab helplessness, she wrote, "I said before that our eyes had become accustomed to suffering and it is our fate neither to know the taste of our past glories nor to pride ourselves on hopes for the future.
However, to every age there is a moment, which defines it more than anything else. And our defining moment is Jenin."
Alfaisal warns the Western and Zionist warlords, "All these reports from witnesses on the ground [from Occupied Palestine] have added to an already explosive situation in the Arab world. I say to the Israelis and any who follow them down this path, that they must be aware, for we will never forgive nor forget. And if after a thousand years, we relate the history of the Crusades as though they had just occurred, do you really think we will forget what you have done to us and are still doing? We were a nation not without means but without a will but now, thanks to Israel, our will is awakened.
If nothing else unites the Ummah, its sorrows will."
In another powerful piece titled "Te Absolvo?" published in Arab News, Alfai,sal chides h,er Arab nati,on:
As I watch the latest carnage taking place in Palestine, I look toward the Arabs to react to this blatant contempt for us and for our rights as human beings. Yet all that I see is criminal acquiescence from all sides. If Israel is a criminal state and if the United States is its associate in crime, if the West is indifferent and the rest of the world has its own problems to worry about, what is our excuse for inaction? Why have we been so shocked at this latest carnage? Haven't we been watching the intifada for the last two years? Didn't we know who Ariel Sharon was and didn't we expect him to act exactly as he has? Where have the Arab demonstrations been for the last 18 months? What action did the Arab League take to stop the Palestinians' constant bleeding? Why haven't the Arab people launched any kind of popular movement to support their brothers and sisters in Palestine?
Alfaisal desperately asks, "Why? Aren't we as a people able to use whatever we have as pressure? Aren't we able to use economic or cultural or political or even media clout to pre-empt and prevent the carnage we are witnessing today?"
She is saddened by Arab inaction and declares:
My friends tell me the Arabs are dead but I say not. The dead are innocent of whatever happens on this earth after their death; events are beyond their powers to control but the Arabs are anything but innocent. They could - and still can - change their destiny. Every time a great crime has been committed on earth, the worst culprits have been cowardice and indifference.
I do not absolve the Israelis of the crimes they have committed. Neither do I absolve the West or the world at large for standing by all these years while the Palestinians and the Arabs have been crushed by Israel's American-supplied military might. At the same time, I will never absolve the Arabs for accepting the sort of abuse that no self-respecting nation should ever accept. We are the creators of our fate and we will pay the price in tears of blood for every time we are given a chance to retrieve our lands and honor and we fail to do so.
The emergence of a powerful voice among Arab women, especially in such a highly American controlled country like Saudi Arabia, is highly significant. One can only guess how many like them simmer behind the walls across Saudi Arabia. While it can be said that it is only the influential women who are getting published, it only indicates that the younger generation in Saudi Arabia is weary of American oppression. Oil cannot continue to flow through the barrel of the gun, but through a moral American policy.
The author is a freelance writer based in Washington D.C.