Brave people are working hard and risking much for freedom in the Middle East.

An Egyptian blogger who wanted to go to Mecca as part of her religious observance found that a Muslim woman under the age of 45 can’t get a visa to Saudi Arabia unless she’s accompanied by a male relative.   Is she whining about being oppressed?  No:

Ziada is also coordinator of the AIC office in Egypt and a correspondent for The CRIME Report. In fact, over the past four days she has helped organize a conference in Cairo for women’s rights activists from across the Middle East focused on women’s civic, political, and economic roles in the Arab world. As Dalia explains, “For the Middle East to develop and prove itself on the international scene we must empower women.” One small step: free young women to go on pilgrimage as independent individuals.

An online news site in Mauritania made a big mistake:  it did independent investigative journalism.  The result:

Founded only two years ago, Taqadoumy (“Progressive”) has surged to become Mauritania’s top online news site. The independent site’s investigative reporting is a thorn in the side of the country’s ruling military regime. Last week, authorities suddenly blocked the site and arrested lead reporter Abbass Ould Braham. When journalists organized a sit-in in solidarity with Abbass, riot police used tear gas and truncheons. But an international outcry forced the regime to back down, releasing Abbass and unblocking Taqadoumy.

More on the fight for civil rights in the Middle East at the link.

I went to the Taqadoumy website and found this story:  Force-feeding sends Mauritania ‘backwards’

Fears are growing for the fate of thousands of young girls in rural Mauritania, where campaigners say the cruel practice of force-feeding young girls for marriage is making a significant comeback since a military junta took over the West African country.

Aminetou Mint Ely, a women’s rights campaigner, said girls as young as 5 were still being subjected to the tradition of leblouh every year.

They are tortured into swallowing huge amounts of food and liquid – and made to consume their vomit if they reject it.

“In Mauritania, a woman’s size indicates the amount of space she occupies in her husband’s heart,” said Mint Ely, head of the Association of Women Heads of Households.

“We have gone backwards. We had a Ministry of Women’s Affairs. We had achieved a parliamentary quota of 20 per cent of seats. We had female diplomats and governors. The military have set us back by decades, sending us back to our traditional roles. We no longer even have a ministry to talk to.”

Kinda puts the fuss about foie gras into perspective, doesn’t it?