Bahraini Activists Inspire, Learn from MSU Students

Female activists from Bahrain meet with MSU Student Senators. Photo by Jeremy Gould

Five women from Bahrain came to MSU on Sept. 6 to share their unique experiences and interact with students and faculty.

The women visited a Middle East history class, met with several student senators and planned to attend a dance in the S.O.B. Barn the following night.

The women came from various backgrounds, such as media, politics, engineering and even physiotherapy, but each came to the United States with the desire to “get a perspective of women in the political process in the United States, and to understand more about elections and campaigns,” explained Luma Bashmi, one of the visitors.

Assistant Professor James Meyer eagerly welcomed the women to his classroom on Sept. 6. “[The experience] was an excellent opportunity for international interaction on campus,” Meyer said.

Students were able to interact with the Bahrainis in a small group setting and ask questions about culture, the economy and politics, allowing the women to share their wealth of knowledge about activist movements in Bahrain.

Bahrain, a small island nation in the Middle East, underwent a political uprising during the “Arab Spring” of 2011 as activist organizations called for government reform. This followed similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. While the movements are still ongoing, the activists are currently facing a stalemate, explained visitor Faten Al Haddad. However, visitor Sara Albadri showed optimism when Meyer asked about the future of Bahrain, saying, “We can change.”

Following the class, the women met with members of student government. Shelby Rogala, a student senator, explained the role of student government on campus, saying that it gives a voice to students. Albadri agreed, stating, “Students can affect many issues.”

The conversation then transitioned to the topic of women’s representation in leadership roles, at which time Bashmi expressed her admiration for women in such roles, saying she looks up to Hillary Clinton for her hard work as Secretary of State. “Kudos to her,” Bashmi said.

The meeting concluded as the Bahraini women decided to attend a barn dance the next night, where they hoped to sample a bit of Montana culture and excitement.

The Bahraini visitors came to campus through an international exchange program called the International Visitor Leadership Program. Through this exchange, the U. S. Department of State has brought thousands of distinguished individuals from throughout the world to the United States. After arriving in the country, participants visit several states and meet with various organizations with the goal of learning more about the U.S. system of government.

Megan McGlothen, Executive Director of the Montana Center of International Visitors (MCIV), and Troy Duker, MSU senior and Information Specialist at the MCIV, planned the visit. In addition to coming to campus, the group met with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Gallatin County Elections Department and the Montana Policy Institute. They also visited New Mexico and Washington D.C., and travelled to New York on Sept. 8.