The U.S. government has made the promotion of women's rights and the empowerment of women a central element of its new campaign to modernize and democratize the Arab world. This new focus is widely supported, but its popularity has generated confusion about the actual conditions of women in the Middle East and the problems they face; about the relationship between women's rights and democracy; and about what an outside intervenor like the United States can accomplish. This paper seeks to clarify some of these issues.

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This is the fourth in a series of papers that frame key issues relating to democracy promotion policies and programs in the Middle East. Also in the series:

Is Gradualism Possible? Choosing a Strategy for Promoting Democracy in the Middle East, by Thomas Carothers
Liberalization Versus Democracy: Understanding Arab Political Reform, by Daniel Brumberg
Promoting Democracy in the Middle East: The Problem of U.S. Credibility, by Marina Ottaway


About the Author
Marina Ottaway
is senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project. Among her most recent publications are The Right Road to Sovereignty in Iraq (Policy Brief no. 27) and Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism (Carnegie Endowment, 2003).

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