Syria’s First Lady Meets  Indian Women

New Delhi, Jun 19 As in India, there is a debate going on in Syria on whether there should be reservation for women in Parliament, Syrian First Lady Asma Assad said here today while interacting with a group of Indian women journalists.

 "There is no quota for women in politics in Syria. There is a national debate. One side of the argument says we need quota system to encourage, to allow more women participating in Parliament," Assad said at the event organised by the Indian Women's Press Corps.

 Assad informed that Syria has the highest percentage of women in Parliament at 13 per cent in the Arab world, which she said was higher than some European countries.

 "I don't want to be complacent. This needs to be higher," said Assad, who is accompanying her husband Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on an official visit to India.

  Assad, however, said she personally felt that the quota system would make women complacent in their campaign for equality and empowerment.

 She noted that Syria is a pioneer in terms of women's participation in politics, but added that it was no longer an exception in the Arab world in this regard.

 "Syria is one of the first Arab countries to give women the right to vote. Our Vice President is a woman. There are women ministers in the Government," she said.

The Hindu Daily quoted H. E. Mrs. Al-Assad as saying - in an informal interaction with journalists at the Indian Women’s Press Corps-  “I will take the quota system in panchayats back home with me to encourage local level participation of women in politics and governance,”

 “Syria is a pioneer in women’s empowerment in the Arab world, but it is no longer an exception. We got franchise along with men in Syria. Our Vice-President is a woman. And, we have women in the Army, in business… the bottom-line is women are everywhere. The challenge we face is that there are few women involved at the local level in politics and governance.”

 Stating that secularism came easily to her country – thanks to Judaism, Christianity and Islam being part of Syria’s heritage instead of being imported – Ms. Assad lamented the growing incidence of sectarian violence in her country’s neighborhood. “Sectarian violence is a disease that is contagious and difficult to reverse because it attacks the mind.”

 The sectarian violence in the Middle East, according to the British-born-and-bred-Syrian, had strengthened her nation’s conviction that this is a tendency which should be avoided. “We have seen the worst of it in our neighborhood.”

 As for the role of the conservative religious leadership in her country and its polity and where it fitted in the secular fabric, Ms. Assad’s response was: “They are part [of] the healthy debate in our country.”

 Asked about the percentage of women who wear the `hijab,’ she said: “I can’t say. What is important is not how women dress, but how we use our mind. `Hijab’ and physical appearance is not our preoccupation. What is important is that women who wear the `hijab’ are active in public life. For our women, it is a matter of choice.”

The Source: (PTI) (The Hindu)


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