Toronto forum discusses current revolution in Middle East

A Canadian sociology professor says, despite the popular revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, women’s rights are not yet being respected in the region.

The Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto was packed last night as CBC Radio held a town hall called, “Tahrir in Toronto – Tracking a Revolution.” The panel discussion, hosted by Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway, included five panellists discussing the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.

Carleton University Professor and panellist Nahla Abdo commented on the status of Arab women fighting for an equal position in their society.

“I think they’re working towards it,” she said. “Arab women are demanding to be an integral part of the political and decision-making process.”

Abdo said that there’s a lot of work to be done for women, especially when she hears instances in which they are still being harassed and oppressed.

Panellist and Humber College Professor Sima Sahar Zerehi said she was shocked to see women being harassed during International Women’s Day when they gathered at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. She said she was also alarmed by the small turnout of women, considering that large crowds participating in the revolution.

“It signalled to me that there’s a long fight for women,” she said. “We really need our male counterparts, the ones that we stood shoulder to shoulder with, to continue to fight for women’s rights.”

Abdalla Ruken, a PhD in physics formerly from Libya, often visits his native country, but he said it will take years to implement a new constitution that reflects the rights of all citizens.

“There will still be poverty. There will still be corruption. There will still be growing pains and failures,” he said. “Yet the Arab people will be a hell of a lot better off than they were before 2011.”

The panellists said that Canadians could help these countries by simply educating themselves of the events occurring in the Middle East and North Africa. Abdo said that it’s important that people remain conscious of what’s happening even after things settle down.

“Spread the word out to your family, to your neighbours, schoolmates, teachers and students,” she said. “If we raise more consciousness among ourselves as Canadians, we can directly and indirectly help.”