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Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism held a hearing on empowering women in the Middle East. This hearing highlighted the challenges women face in the region and how Congress can help promote their inclusion in civil society. Congressman Michael McCaul, Republican Leader on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, submitted the following statement for the record.

“I am thrilled that the subcommittee is holding this hearing on advancing women in the Middle East. We cannot underestimate the power of promoting women to be active participants in their community, economy and society. Especially in times of conflict, countries are more stable and prosperous when women have a senior role in decision making. This rings even more true in the Middle East, where many countries face threats of terrorism and extremism that have fueled decades-long wars. The biggest threat to extremism is an empowered woman, which is why it is important that Congress continue to encourage more countries in the region to promote women in civil society.

“From fighting instability and terrorism, women’s empowerment is critical to our foreign policy objectives and national security. Over the past several years, we have seen more women active in politics in the Middle East. For example, women are serving in leadership roles in countries like Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan appointed its first female ambassador to the United States, Roya Rahmani.

“While there has been progress, there is much more to be done when it comes to supporting women’s rights. In Iran, the oppression of women under the Iranian regime is brutal. Women are not allowed to attend universities, to hold jobs, to drive a car. They are forced to cover their entire bodies in public. In many cases of rape, the accused man will not face any punishment, and the woman in question will be accused of fornication, will be imprisoned, and eventually put to death. Women should be empowered and treated equally under the color of law. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to provide more tools to empower women around the world economically with bills like the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Act of 2020.”