Speaker Samaan

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"For the first time in the Arab world," reports the BBC, "a woman has chaired a parliamentary session. . . ." It happened this week in Bahrain, unplanned. Bahrain's usual parliamentary speaker and his two deputies were all absent, which meant that the speaker's role went to the most senior member present. That was one Alees Samaan, originally from Iraq (and also a Christian), who was appointed to the parliament five years ago by Bahrain's king.

Samaan approached the speaker's chair to "warm applause," according to press accounts. When the session ended a few hours later, "colleagues were said to have rushed to the podium to have their pictures taken with her."

"[W]hat is really remarkable about the story," writes the Beeb's Arab Affairs analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi, "is the significance attributed by the [Arab] press to the episode. Incidents of this kind in the Arab world are increasingly being seen as signs of a gradual change towards more open and democratic societies in the entire region."

A recent study found that "The number of women members of parliament in the Arab world has almost doubled in the last five years," to 6.5 percent of the region's MPs, according to a BBC report in March. "Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco contributed most" to that rise, "but the trend should continue thanks to the recent Iraqi elections."

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  1. Great news.

    Here’s to the continuation of trends. Cheers.

  2. Ditto!

  3. I’m not surprised that she presided. She was the most senior member present, after all.

    I’m surprised, very pleasantly surprised that the other MPs cheered and had their pictures taken with her.

    Whoo-hoo!

  4. Oh, would those MPs in Bahrain have been so willing to have their pictures taken with a Christian woman if the US hadn’t invaded Iraq? 🙂

  5. All those guys out at the same time and Oh! they never even noticed that a woman would be presiding? This was planned.

  6. I’m just impressed that the Iraq election convinced the Bahrainese to allow women in their parliament, and begin gradually turning over power to it, three years before they actually happened.

  7. I’m just impressed that the Iraq election convinced the Bahrainese to allow women in their parliament, and begin gradually turning over power to it, three years before they actually happened.

    I think it’s obvious that the invasion of Iraq inspired the Founders of the US to ratify the Bill of Rights.

    What? You disagree? Why do you hate freedom so much?

  8. You think those cardinals would have actually held a vote, if not for the invasion of Iraq?

  9. Would joe and thoreau have to pre-emptively protest too much if the US never invaded Iraq? The world may never know. But it does take 328 licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop.

  10. It’s obvious that the one day absence of the Speaker and his deputies were due to the fact that they’re quaking in the wake of freedom washing over the region.

  11. You think those cardinals would have actually held a vote, if not for the invasion of Iraq?

    The invasion has sent a message to the followers of Middle Eastern prophets: No more dogmatic religious rulers!

    Yep, the Cardinals were sure listening. Oh, wait…

  12. Sam & Son,

    “Pre-emptively?” I’d like to draw your attention to the the final line of the blog post:

    “but the trend should continue thanks to the recent Iraqi elections.”

    We’re not pre-empting anything.

  13. “You’ve come a long way, bint-y!”

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