The Real War on Women

by Heather Robinson


Terrible and distressing information has emerged about the fate of aid worker Kayla Mueller, an American woman who was kidnapped in Syria by ISIS after she went there to help provide humanitarian aid, and who died in February of this year.

The ISIS leader who held her hostage used her as his sex slave before her death, according to The New York Post.

“We were told that Kayla was tortured, that she was the property of al-Baghdadi. We were told that in June by the government,” Mueller’s parents said.

ISIS has forced thousands of Yazidi women and girls as young as 12 into sex slavery over the past year. They use “religious” justification for doing so.

Mueller’s parents have criticized the Obama Administration for its decision to exchange five Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is now charged with desertion. They say that that unpopular Presidential decision doomed any chance of negotiating a deal with ISIS for Kayla’s release.

If there is a real War on Women, it’s being waged predominantly by radical Muslims in the Mideast and elsewhere. That isn’t to say that Western societies are free from sexism or that we are so perfect (witness Donald Trump’s sexist and vulgar remarks about Megyn Kelly, which seem, appallingly, to have done little to reduce his popularity). But the U.S., like Israel, is a society in which women enjoy full legal rights. Not so in much of the Islamic world.

Footnote: some ultra-rightist commentators have criticized Mueller, after her death, for having marched with the International Solidarty (ISM) movement in the Palestinian territories. ISM is a phony pacifist organization –  phony because it advocates violence against and dehumanizes “settlers” (human beings who happen to live on a certain land mass) and therefore does not deserve the designation “humanitarian” organization. While I think it sadly unfortunate and ironic that Ms. Mueller’s remarkable, courageous life of humanitarian service was tainted even slightly by association with ISM, I’m not aware of evidence that she was motivated by hatred, anti-Semitism, or desire to hurt anyone. For example, she spent most of her time in the Mideast working to provide aid in Syria and Turkey to war victims (as opposed to hanging around the Palestinian territories and demonizing and antagonizing Israelis). Rather, I think it likely that Ms. Mueller, like many impressionable young people before her, was misinformed by a savvy, highly political organization (ISM) that, like the “flotilla” and other phony “peace” efforts, borrows the cloak and language of true of pacifism to wage war against certain groups  more insidiously. At any rate, her brief association with ISM strikes me as similar to that of many college age people who might attend a march and not be aware of all the facts and facets of the group with which they are involved. I’ve been there; so have many of us.

By some accounts, Ms. Mueller was uncommonly brave in trying to support and protect the other young women with whom she was imprisoned and who were also being used as sex slaves. I imagine that if a courageous young feminist like Ms. Mueller fully and deeply understood that Israel is the only nation in the Mideast in which the rights of women, including Arab women, are fully legally protected and generally upheld, and if she fully grasped, as sadly in death she surely did, what a contrast that is to the way women are treated in much of the Arab world, she would probably not have aligned herself, even briefly, against Israel.

Brave Kayla, rest in peace.




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