The War Against Women

Editor's Note: The following opinion essay originally appeared Verdengs Gang -- Norway's largest daily newspaper

As the old adage reminds us, you can tell the nature of a country by the way it treats its women. You can also assess the condition of civilization by the way it responds to oppression and misogyny.

This week the Myanmar military junta is once again putting Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the pro-democracy forces in her country on trial.


Her house arrest was set to expire on May 27, yet she now faces the absurd charge of violating the terms of her detention because a troubled American swam across a lake to her home. Her new crime? Giving the exhausted and ill American refuge for two days.

At this moment, two American women journalists are held captive by the despotic North Korean government. Linda Ling and Euna Lee have been refused counsel and remain isolated and silenced.

Just last week, another American woman reporter, Roxana Saberi was released by the Iranian government only after a hunger strike and increasing worldwide news media pressure after being held hostage by that regime for months.

As these dramas continue, the Taliban, like all Islamist extremists known exclusively for their barbarity toward women and girls, edged closer in their war toward gaining control of Pakistan and its 60 nuclear bombs. Over one million Pakistanis, yes, mostly women and girls, now live in refugee tent cities hoping their fate will not include living under Islamists who outlaw education for women and girls, murder girls who dare to go to school, and attempt to disappear and silence women with the burqa.

While all of these events are moral outrages, the world itself remains silent. The Oslo Freedom Forum, which took place here this week [May 20] focuses on the international picture of human rights, honoring heroic reformative voices, yet the problem is not exclusively "non-American." The United States, even under the new American president and his wife, has not stepped up to the human rights plate, and arguably has contributed to the renewed sense of gravitas amongst the world's tyrants.

Ultimately, the hostage-taking of Saberi in Iran and Ling and Lee in North Korea, all during the first 50 days of the Obama administration, proves one thing--dictators and tyrants heard Obama's call for "negotiation" and they decided to gather their bargaining chips. This is what happens when the U.S. and the UN send a message to the world that neither is willing to take serious action against human rights abuses and tyrannical advances.

Islamist states continue to condemn women and girls without any coordinated international outrage. Myanmar operates freely -- despite its continued quiet torture of Aung San Suu Kyi. North Korea hears nothing of "hope and change" about the American women they've taken hostage as the Obama administration pretends life is all about magazine covers and puppies in the White House.

Oppressed people have always looked to women for change and reform, which is why the world's tyrants create a special sort of hell for those who dare to speak up, challenge authority or dare to be journalists or politicians. Without exception, the world's rogue, murderous regimes wreaking havoc and spreading terrorism are run by men for men, and savagely oppress women.

Not so long ago, the world united against a racist South African regime that subjected its black citizens to the segregation and discrimination of apartheid. The world found it rightly noble to reject and isolate that barbarity and forced it to change. It's time for the world to stand up for women, holding misogynist regimes accountable for stone-age "cultural" practices which not only condemn women and girls, but also allow oppression and violence to spread like wildfire.