Just wanted to let you know that I finally found a few quiet minutes to sit down at my computer and look up your website the other night. I was very impressed by the design and concept of the website -- it is really a wonderful resource and it is amazing that you have managed to compile so many stories from young women around the globe. The issues are also very intersting and timely. I just have a few thoughts and suggestions, based on what I read, that I hope you don't mind my sharing with you.
I was curious to know how you found the stories that you published on the site. One of the reasons I ask is that while I wasn't able to read all the stories related to War and Conflict--since there were so many of them and I could have spent hours since they seemed so fascinating!-- I did feel that they seemed to be in general less directly critical of US-sponsored war and occupation than I would have expected, especially from young women in Iraq or Lebanon. I know that it is not an easy time for Arabs or Muslims, especially, to be denouncing US policies, but it would be really helpful if there could be a more complete and accurate perspective on the wars in the Middle East.
For example, I noticed that one of the Lebanese women had a poster of Nasrallah that was quite wonderful, but her account of the "media star/war hero/war mongerer" did not say anything about Nasrallah's political philosophy or the roots of Hezbollah's emergence (after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon). The other Lebanese woman had a much longer piece but that too had only a passing mention of the war, attributing it to the capture of IDF soldiers by Hezbollah, but not mentioning anything about the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon or the Lebanese prisoners inside Israel. I realize that these essays are just personal reflections, not political or historical essays, but if they all tend toward a certain perspective, my concern is that readers will not get any more insights into what is actually going on in these zones of war and conflict than what they find in the mainstream media, and worse still, that they may leave with a distorted picture of what the sources of these conflicts are and believe these accounts even more, since these are first-person accounts from people who are really "there."
So if this perspective was accidentally produced by who submitted, I think it would be a really good idea to solicit articles from people who reflect a much broader range of perspectives of what Arab women think about the wars in the region ... for e.g. you could look at sources from ElectronicIntifada's Lebanon site, and for Iraq, you would find Riverbend's blog has a very different perspective on the US occupation than the Iraqi woman featured on the website, who did not give any explanation for why someone in the (US-sponsored) Iraqi govt would ask her mother's opinion about "democracy," let alone whether it is possible to have democracy under occupation, or why her family was attacked for belonging to the local council. The Iraqi woman did document the horrors of the invasion, but there were a lot of gaps in the article that were left unexplained. The article by the sister of the American marine was somewhat better, in my view, and she actually mentioned Palestine as well, but it would have been really good to have these opinions expressed by one of the many Iraqi women who can attest to the sham that is going on in Iraq, not to mention the atrocities in Palestine.
I should add that I realize that these stories are stories, not political essays or even journalistic accounts. But I do think it would be important for the website to reflect the range of views that young women in the Arab world, in particular, have about war and conflict, if these are to be meaningfully addressed. I also read the Pakistani woman's story about Eid, and while I appreciated the pluralist sentiment and historical context in the essay, I think many Muslim Americans do not feel that the US is a place where they can publicly express their Muslim identity in safety, even if many are divided about how democratic the US is relative to their home countries, as I'm sure you know.
The reality is that there is a lot of frustration, anger, fear, and skepticism among Arabs and Muslims, and I think it is important for someone to provide an outlet to those views so that Americans understand how people feel when they are bearing the brunt of US aggression or surveillance and foreign invasion. It was interesting that the place where this was most evident was the comments posted by other readers from places such as Indonesia or Kenya, and I think it would be good to actually have stories that reflect this view as well.
I hope you don't mind my honest feedback -- I think this project is a very important one and it could play a very useful role if it could open viewers' eyes to the reality of what many are thinking and experiencing at this time of war and conflict.