Neighbors / Want to Divorce? In Cairo, the Radio Offers Women Help

"Divorce is permitted but it is the thing most despised by Allah," the Muslim Hadith, or oral law, states. "When security disappears in married life, and serenity is not accessible, then it is time to do the thing most despised by Allah." That is the slogan adopted by Divorcees' Radio, founded by Mahasen Saber, with the help of 25 volunteers in Egypt.

The online radio station aims to empower divorced women in the Arab countries and improve their status. Saber told Al-Arabiya Television she got the idea for the radio station because of her workplace experience following her divorce. "They told me that from now on, as I was divorced, my situation was sensitive, and it would be better if I did not move around where there were men in the office," she said.

The first broadcasts brought sharp criticism from men, who charged the station's purpose was to instruct women how to rebel against men. Saber overcome the charge by adding programs about divorced men and children who living in single-parent families.

Saber says she was married for three years and spent a great part of them in the courts in an attempt to get her divorce. Even before she established the radio station, she initiated a protest of women outside the Egyptian parliament calling for changes in the personal status law. Under the existing law, a woman can demand a divorce but is likely to lose in her property and the dowry paid for her.

Saber started writing a blog in which she published advice for women on how to conduct a divorce campaign legally and provided a platform for women to express their frustration with their marriages. The blog, and later the radio station, attracted thousands of responses from all the Arab countries, she says.

The data published by some of the Arab countries shows the divorce rate ranges from 24 percent (in Saudi Arabia) to 35 percent (in Qatar). As usual, the religious sages place the blame for this on permissiveness and the lack of suitable religious instruction.

This widespread phenomenon comes up against a strict legal system that tries to prevent divorce by severely damaging the woman's rights. Just seeing the remarks of some of the surfers about the opening of the radio station reveals how far a woman who wishes to divorce in an Arab country has to go to get legal rights or even respected status in society.

"Instead of opening a radio station for divorced women, it would have been proper to examine why these women get divorced in the first place," one Arab woman wrote. "A woman cannot live without a husband and whoever claims otherwise has no idea what he is talking about."

A surfer from Morocco wrote: "You present all men as if they were animals. But don't forget that women play a greater part in the game with others' feelings. They show their love for the man via the Messenger only in order to get economic benefits from them."

Interestingly, the most advanced women's rights law among the Arab countries was legislated in Morocco in 2004; it gives women the right to get divorced - with defined restrictions but without losing their property. It obliges men who divorce their wives to pay them their part of the property and does not make do with an oral promise but demands actual payment before the divorce is approved.

When this law was being discussed in the Moroccan parliament, a Muslim sage said that "there are men who cannot make do with only one woman and therefore they must be granted the right to marry additional women." The interior minister responded: "If he can't manage with only one woman, let him go get medical treatment."

Khamenei vs. Rafsanjani

While Iran is busy clashing with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Western powers are drawing closer on the issue of imposing additional sanctions on Tehran, the political struggle inside Iran is far from over. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is fighting against the "soft war" of the West and the Americans' intentions of "sowing doubts and differences of opinion through cultural means."

It seems, however, he sees the most direct threat to himself is Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts who, following the elections, exposed the rift between him and the spiritual leader and forced Khamenei to change his status from "leader of all" to the patron of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

As a result, Khamenei canceled the weekly meetings he held with Rafsanjani, whose name was removed from the list of preachers for Friday prayers in Tehran's main mosque. The official media do not mention his name and last week he was also not included on the list of prayer leaders for Id al-Adha.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad is working against Rafsanjani's family. He has declared that he is planning to restore government control of the Tehran Metro. It is the biggest subway system in the Middle East, carrying about a million people every day, and is currently controlled by the Tehran municipality, which is headed by Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, who ran against Ahmadinejad in the elections, and its director is Mohsen Hashemi, Rafsanjani's son.

The metro is to receive the equivalent of one billion dollars in government funds this year for development and ticket subsidies, and Ahmadinejad has his eye on this sum. He cares less about the proper running of the subway system and more about the funds that will be under the control of the Rafsanjani family.