Troublemaking Powerful Women of the Middle East: What Gives With Their Nonviolence?



I think it is interesting that in just a few days we heard from the daughter of Emir of Qatar that MENA radical intervention into Syria was turning into a ruination of a legitimate struggle because of the violence and barbarism of the religious extremists. Then we heard from the daughter of Khomeini, father of the Iranian Revolution, that the current leaders may be ruining the revolution and replacing it with a dictatorship. What’s up with the new daughters of MENA? These women are not radicalized hippie eighteen year old children of farmers from the countryside. They are from the top elite of each country’s leadership. What gives with these women’s preference for nonviolence? Could this be a kindler, gentler effect of the Arab Spring? Or perhaps the culmination of longer processes at work? 

The answer is that the slow and steady increase of women’s voices and power of expression in even the most conservative societies is coupling nicely with the longstanding tendency of most women to think of less violent solutions to human struggles than their fathers, husbands and brothers. Women are not by definition nonviolent, nor are men by definition violent. It is a matter of tendencies and statistics. Statistically speaking the more power that women have the less likely a society’s choices for violence. This is one of the key reasons for global trends downward of violence, the feminization of power among even conservative elites. 

We need desperately a leadership in Qatar that knows how to stand up for legitimate Sunni Muslim religious rights in Syria without getting everyone slaughtered or turning everyone into barbarians. And we need an Iranian leadership that knows how to stand up for legitimate grievances and needs that Iran has vis a vis the United States, without inviting suicidal confrontations and internal repression.

It is hard standing up for rights and defending legitimate grievances, but it need not be done always through violence, as these women know well, and better than the ‘seasoned’ politicians on all sides. It is time that they are given more of a role in managing the needs and interests of their countries and cultures, not to replace men but to be essential partners in thinking rationally about everyone’s interests and needs.

This is not about women being better than men in war and peace, it is about an end to tyranny, the tyranny of one half of humanity speaking for all of humanity, when in reality it is only the whole of human being that knows how to be rational, intelligent, courageous, constructive, and peaceful. 

© Marc Gopin