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Women's Rights and Democracy in the Arab World

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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.