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1840: Aisha Taymur, the distinguished female poet and writer, is born in Egypt.

Aisha Taymur participates in the struggle for the emancipation of women in the early 20th century. She is one of the leading figures of an Arab intellectual and cultural awakening.


1867: Lebanese poet Warda al-Yaziji publishes her collection of poems.

Warda al-Yaziji's collection of poetry, called The Rose Garden in English, speaks to a female presence within a broader, Arab identity. Al-Yaziji also has also published several articles about the status of Arab women.


1899: The Egyptian book The Liberation of Women stimulates enormous public debate on women's status in Egypt.

In his book The Liberation of Women, written and published at the end of the 19th century, Egyptian lawyer Qasim Amin argues that the emancipation of women is a necessary step in freeing Egypt from foreign domination. He also uses portions of the Quran to support his argument. The book, controversial upon its publication, continues to be so today, more than 100 years later.


1907: The first Egyptian girl graduates from high school.

Nabawiya Moussa is the first Egyptian girl to earn a baccalaureate degree and finish her high school education. Twenty-one years will pass before another Egyptian girl earns this degree. Throughout her life, Moussa is a pioneering figure in women's education, teaching, writing, and speaking about its importance.


1918-1922: A nationalist movement in Egypt leads to Egyptian independence.

Saad Zaghlul leads a delegation to meet with the ruling British High Commissioner and demand independence for Egypt. He is refused, and his subsequent arrest and deportation spark anti-British riots. The growing popular support of the nationalistic Wafd Party -- "wafd" is Arabic for "delegation" -- prompts Britain to grant Egypt limited independence in February 1922 and install a king as head of state. Britain, which has served as Egypt's protectorate since 1914, retains control over essential government institutions, including the parliament; finances; education; and the Sudan. It also keeps troops in the Suez Canal zone. Egypt will gain full independence after World War II.


1920s: Iraqi women move to gain more rights and a better education.

Iraqi women seek to be recognized as full citizens and want freedom from having to wear a veil in public, as per Islamic tradition. Aswa Zahawi founds the Women's Rising Group, which begins to publish Leila, a journal promoting education and employment rights for women.


1923: Three leaders of the Egyptian women's movement return to Cairo from a feminist conference in Rome and remove their veils in public.

In a daring act of defiance, Huda Shaarawi, Ceza Nabarawi, and Nabawiya Moussa take off their hijab (veils) at the Cairo train station to symbolize their liberation. They demand equality, the right to education and the vote, and reform of the law that regulates marriage, divorce, child custody, and alimony.


1934: Women in Turkey earn full voting rights.

Atat¸rk grants women full voting rights, making Turkey the first Middle Eastern country to allow this. Women had obtained the right to vote in municipal elections in 1930.


1949: Women in Syria are given the right to vote and stand for election.



1953: Lebanese women gain the right to vote.



1956: Egypt grants women equal voting rights.

The new Egyptian constitution grants women the right to vote and to run for elected office.

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May 6, 1961: The White Revolution: Reza Shah Pahlevi dissolves Iran's legislative body and suspends its constitution.

The Shah's suspension of the constitution and his dissolution of the legislature free him to proceed with his plan for modernization, which has been opposed by religious conservatives in the Majlis. The Shah abolishes the practice of sharecropping, nationalizes dwindling forests, gives women voting rights, and starts a massive rural literacy program.


1965: Zaynab al-Ghazali, Islamic activist and founder of the Muslim Women's Association, is imprisoned in Egypt.

At the same time that President Gamal Abd al-Nasser's government cracks down on the Muslim Brotherhood, other groups suspected of agitating the public against the government are also shut down. One such group is Zaynab al-Ghazali's Muslim Women's Association. Al-Ghazali founded the Muslim Women's Association in 1936, at age 18, to instill the doctrines of Islam in women's minds, teach them about their rights and duties, and call for the establishment of an Islamic state guided by the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. (The Sunnah is the example of practical leadership and the ideological guidance provided by Muhammad, which transforms belief in God into a culture and a civilization, and enables men and women to evolve a way of life.) Brought to trial in 1966 and sentenced to a life term, al-Ghazali is released in 1971 by Nasser's successor, Anwar al-Sadat. She continues to be a proponent of the establishment of a united Islamic state.

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1969-1974: Golda Meir serves as Israeli prime minister, becoming the world's second female head of government.

Kiev-born and Milwaukee-raised Golda Meir emigrated to Palestine in 1921. After holding positions in Israel's first government beginning in 1948 -- as an ambassador, a member of the Knesset, and foreign minister for 10 years -- Meir assumes the role of prime minister upon the death of Levi Eshkol in 1969. Under her leadership, Israel strengthens relations with the U.S. Presiding over Israel during the Yom Kippur War, Meir is harshly criticized for Israel's lack of preparedness against the surprise attack. In April 1974 she resigns, despite having won the election a few months earlier. She dies at age 80 in December 1978.

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1972: Feminist author Nawal El Saadawi publishes her book Women and Sex, angering many of Egypt's political and religious authorities.

The publication of El Saadawi's book results in her dismissal by the Ministry of Health as its director of public health. Over the next decade, she is imprisoned for criticizing government policies. El Saadawi goes on to found the Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA), the first legal, independent feminist organization in Egypt. The AWSA, which is dedicated to "lifting the veil from the mind of Arab women," is banned in 1991 after criticizing U.S. involvement in the Gulf War.


April 1973: Jordanian women gain the right to vote.

In 1974 King Hussein gives women the right to vote and run for public office. But because there are no parliamentary elections between 1968 and 1989, women must wait 15 years to exercise this right.

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1975: Women are admitted to King Saud University as full-time students.

Although they have been allowed to attend classes at Saudi Arabia's King Saud University since 1961, women are not admitted as full-time students eligible to pursue a degree until 1975. The next year, the Center for Women's University Studies will be founded to oversee all aspects of women's education. Today, women are free to pursue higher degrees in a wide range of areas. Founded in 1957 as Riyadh University, King Saud University is one of the oldest universities in Saudi Arabia.


August 28, 1975: The UAE Women's Federation, a special interest group led by Sheikha Fatima, is formed.

Assembled from several smaller women's societies and under the leadership of Sheikha Fatima, the wife of UAE president Sheikh Zayed, this federally funded organization makes recommendations to the government on such matters as health and education.


June 15, 1978: Jordan's King Hussein marries Lisa Najeeb Halaby, an Arab American.

Queen Noor, born Lisa Halaby in the United States, plays a highly visible role during her husband's reign, working hard to advance causes important to Jordan and the wider world. She directs and sponsors programs committed to the advancement of women in society, children's health care, education, the arts, and environmental protection. She also actively promotes international exchange as a means by which to enhance understanding of Middle Eastern politics and improve Arab-Western relations.

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1988: Women comprise about 25 percent of Iraq's work force.

Iraqi women hold professional positions (e.g., doctors, lawyers), as well as positions in education and social welfare offices. They are allowed to vote and serve as elected officials in the National Assembly.


December 2, 1988: Benazir Bhutto becomes prime minister of Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto, daughter of the country's ex-premier, is sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan. She is the first woman to head the government of an Islamic state.


1990s: Female literacy in Yemen reaches 26 percent.

Whereas only 3 percent of Yemeni women are literate in 1975, by the early '90s the country's female literacy rate hits 26 percent. Yemeni women share the same right to education as men.

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June 1993: Tansu Ciller becomes Turkey's first female prime minister.

Ciller, a Western-educated economist, professor, and leader of the True Path Party, serves three years before leaving her position as prime minister in 1996.

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1994: Omani women are encouraged to have fewer children.

Omani women, who traditionally gained status by having a large number of children, have one of the highest birthrates in the world -- on average, Omani women will bear 7.7 children. To help women and the children to whom they give birth become healthier, Oman provides Birth Spacing Services.

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1996: Israel's Supreme Court rules that qualified women cannot be excluded from air force pilot training.

Israel's Supreme Court makes this ruling after hearing a case brought by Alice Miller against the Israeli air force. Although the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had allowed women officers to train male soldiers, women themselves had been excluded from combat prior to the ruling. By some estimations, 60 percent of the women serving in the armed forces never get beyond desk work.


1996-2002: The Taliban severely restricts women's role in society.

Under the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, women are banished from the workforce, forbidden an education, and prohibited to leave their homes unless a close male relative escorts them. In public, they must wear special dress (burqa) that completely covers the body and leaves only a small mesh-covered opening through which they can see. Windows of women's houses visible to the public must be painted black. Religious minorities and secular individuals also suffer intolerance under the Taliban regime.

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November 1996: The ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, outlines a bill of rights based on Islamic law.

Oman's constitution, called the Basic Law, ensures press freedoms, tolerance for all religious faiths, and equality for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or sex. It also calls for a court system that would interpret the law. Oman and Qatar are the only Gulf states in which women can vote.


May 26, 1997: Iranian voters elect Mohammed Khatami president.

Mohammed Khatami campaigns for president for just two weeks on a platform emphasizing return to the rule of law and restoration of civil society. Almost immediately, police stop hassling women for improper dress, and bolder women start wearing their head scarves further back on the head, showing more of their hair. Newspapers report freely about the government.

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September 1997: Turkey reinforces its ban on wearing head scarves in government offices and universities.

In the year following the implementation of the ban, 2,000 women are expelled from universities for choosing to wear head scarves.

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January 15, 1998: Turkey's parliament allows husbands to be indicted for domestic abuse.

Turkey's parliament passes legislation that states that husbands can be indicted for domestic abuse even if their wives refuse to press charges. Later in the year, a constitutional court rules that adultery is no longer a crime for women. Though adultery has long been legal for men, women previously faced up to three years in prison if found guilty.


May 7, 1998: Qatar becomes the first Gulf nation to allow women to compete in an athletic tournament.

The Qatar Amateur Athletic Federation (QAAF) hosts the Qatar International Athletic Grand Prix II at Khalifa Stadium. At the games, Qatar becomes the first Gulf country to allow women to compete in an athletic tournament. In the 1990s, Qatar had become a more frequent stopping point for international athletics, twice as the host of some qualifying rounds for the 1994 and 1998 soccer World Cup.

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August 6, 1998: Hanan Ashrawi, a female political activist for the Palestinian people, resigns her government post in protest against political corruption.

After holding several official posts, including head of the political committee of the Palestinian Authority, Hanan Ashrawi leaves the government to protest the political corruption she observed in Yasser Arafat's handling of peace talks. A Christian educated at the American University in Beirut and the University of Virginia, she first enters the political scene in 1988, advancing an image of Palestinians as victims of oppression and becoming one of the first Palestinian figures to transcend the media's popular "terrorist" stereotype. An activist as well as an academic, in 1999 Ashrawi founds MIFTAH, a group dedicated to promoting the Palestinian cause and ending Israeli occupation by focusing on humanitarian rather than ideological or historical arguments. She continues to serve as the organization's secretary general and as a Palestinian legislator.

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January 1999: The Israeli Defense Forces sends a woman to serve in a combat unit for the first time.

Lt. Dr. Elina Weismann becomes the first woman officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to serve in a combat unit, as a battalion physician in southern Lebanon. At the same time, the IDF announces other changes in women's service, from requirements for apparel to participation in elite jumpmasters training. The IDF also announces plans to conduct coeducational basic training for soldiers in identical positions.

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March 8, 1999: Qatar becomes the first Gulf nation to allow women to vote in municipal elections.

Qatar is the first Gulf country to allow women to vote in municipal elections following a ruling by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in 1998. Six of the 227 candidates for the central municipal council are women. More than 40 percent of the voters are women, although none of the six women candidates wins.

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April 1999: Technosphere '99 is organized to discuss the impact of science and technology on Arab women.

Participants in the three-day conference Technosphere '99 come from 20 Arab countries. They resolve to expand technological and vocational education for women in the Arab world.


January 2000: President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt signs a legal-reform package that provides women equal divorce rights.

The new law signed into law by Egyptian president Mubarak essentially gives women the same divorce rights as men. Women no longer need to show proof of physical abuse or adultery, for example, to end a marriage. Egypt becomes only the second country in the Arab world, after Tunisia, to grant women these rights.

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January 25, 2000: In Kuwait, two women writers are given prison sentences after one is convicted of blasphemy and the other of using indecent language.

Laila al-Othman's use of the word "lustful" to describe sea waves in her book The Departure is interpreted by authorities as having a sexual connotation. She claims this was unintended. Alia Shuaib, a professor at Kuwait University, is found guilty of "publishing opinions that ridicule religion" in a book she published in 1993, Spiders Bemoan a Wound. Each receives a suspended two-month sentence.

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February 16, 2000: Haifa al-Baker becomes the first woman lawyer in Qatar.



February 23, 2000: Ofra Haza, Yemeni-Israeli singer, dies.

Ofra Haza's sound, a mix of traditional songs and dance beats, made her an international star. She was nominated for a Grammy Award in the World Beat category in 1992 and even performed at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo at the request of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak deliver eulogies at Haza's funeral.

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July 2000: Iranian singer Googoosh performs in New York City.

Faegheh Atashin, popularly known as Googoosh, is an Iranian pop star and icon of female freedom and sexuality. She and other female solo artists were banned from singing in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini.


2000: Women's rights activists continue their struggle to gain the right to vote and stand for political office in Kuwait.

After being turned away by officials from registration centers, which opened in February to update the all-male voters lists, a number of women file a complaint against the interior minister, al-Shaikh Mohammad Khaled al-Sabah. This challenge to the legitimacy of Kuwait's electoral law, which denies women the right to vote, is heard by the Constitutional Court in June and is rejected.

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September 15, 2000: Two Omani women are elected to serve on Sultan Qaboos's advisory council.

The advisory council, or Majlis al-Shura, has no formal powers but is consulted by Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, on new laws and public policy.


November 12, 2000: Leah Rabin, widow of Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, dies of cancer.

Leah Rabin, a homemaker-turned-peace campaigner, was feted abroad as an advocate of Israeli-Arab coexistence but was shunned by some in Israel as a divisive figure. She counted political leaders, including U.S. president Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, among her close friends, and after her husband's assassination, she crisscrossed the world to carry the torch for his peace policies. Mrs. Rabin's harshest critics were the supporters of hard-line leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she accused of fanning the hatred that led to her husband's murder at a Tel Aviv peace rally in 1995. Netanyahu had opposed the land-for-security agreements Yitzhak Rabin signed with the Palestinians.

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2002: Female attendance in schools reaches a record high in the United Arab Emirates.

About 98 percent of all females eligible for school attend. In fact, 60 percent of the student body of the UAE University in al-Ain are women. Graduates make up a large percentage of teachers, health service professionals, and government employees. The UAE's first woman pilot recently graduated from its aviation college.






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