Laura Bush tells about region face discrimination and democratic progress

First lady &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Laura Bush challenged a region dominated by men and strong tradition to allow women into the political process and workplace, saying yesterday that equal rights are essential for democratic progress in the Middle East.

The first lady, making a high-profile speech at the &to=http:// - ' target=_blank>World Economic Forum, said new freedoms granted to the women of Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Morocco prove equal rights are compatible with Islam and Arab culture, informs the Seattle Times.

Bush, on a diplomatic mission to try to improve America's image in the Arab world, said education and women's rights were two pillars of a vibrant democracy.

In a 20-minute speech, she said world leaders must allow students, men and women, to study freely in modernized educational institutions.

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