Many people are talking about Beji Caid Essebsi, the Tunisian president under whose aegis women in the country are getting some long-sought rights.
Recently, a proposal to allow the right of full inheritance for women was granted. Previously, women had been limited to one-half of a full family inheritance. They also faced restrictions as to whom they could marry. Now, some of these rules are under consideration in a time when modernization is remaking the North African landscape.
To be sure, there are advocates and detractors on both sides. Some Tunisian women are less than thrilled about their new rights, acting on the premise that reforms seem to erode the role of religion as a guiding force for politics. However, there’s a consensus across parts of the Arab world and surrounding communities that opening up more of the world to today’s women is a way to enhance a society, not erode its principles. Some even say it is an embrace of values that are consistent with Islam. Another example is the Saudi king who has allowed women to drive cars.
Geopolitical researcher and local activist Ken West in Charlottesville, Virginia, believes there is more happening than just advances in the rights of women in the region.
“It’s a revolution,” West told Maghreb News Wire on Nov. 3, describing a situation where more groups of people access more of what modern societies have to offer.
“They got beat down,” West said of women in countries including Tunisia that under past regimes adhered to more draconian traditions. “If their husband died, they got thrown in the street.”
Contrasting that with some of the progress going on today, West said he feels certain civil rights advances live in a nexus with new technologies.
Referring to the “singularity” posited by theoretician Ray Kurzweil, the emergence of companies like Google’s Deep Mind, and other innovations, West said women and others are being empowered in an era when the average human is also realizing greater capabilities, which, West said, will soon come to resemble immortality.
It’s no coincidence – he said. Technology is shining a light on human practices, and driving a kind of synergy that is pushing humans to be the best versions of themselves.
“It’s finally happening,” West said, making a reference to the “Age of Aquarius” so often talked about in the later part of the 20th century. West suggested that what we are seeing right now is not a literal consummation of this idea, but a very abstract one with its own origins and its own, as of now unpredictable, results.