Obama administration: Middle East women want our support

“Those local women, they know what they want – and they don't want to be raped, they don't want to be insulted, and they don't want to be marginalized. But they don't necessarily have the platforms, the voices, the resources, the means of moving the meter. So I think we need to work through that.”

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Sonenshine singled out Egypt for criticism.

“The abuse of women has violated not only bodies, but rights to free expression and the right to fully take part in their country's transition,” she said. She pointed out that only a handful of women won seats in recent parliamentary elections and that it's been up to civil society groups to “stand up against official pronouncements that distort religion and deny rights to women.”

The remarks come amid growing concerns that the Egyptian government is seeking to repress dissent and human rights as the Muslim Brotherhood consolidates power. Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in Tuesday, calling the recent arrests of Morsi critics a “tipping point” for Egypt.

“We share a very real concern in the Obama administration about the direction that Egypt is apparently moving in,” Kerry said. “It is our hope that there is still time to be able to turn the corner. But the recent arrests, the violence in the streets, the lack of inclusivity with respect to the opposition in public ways that make a difference to the people of Egypt are all of concern today.”