carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

MIDDLE EAST: Protest movements give new energy to International Women's Day

International Women's Day is normally an occasion for politicians to issue lukewarm statements about equality, while rights activists struggle to rally support around issues such as citizenship, child-custody law and domestic abuse.

But this year, women across the Middle East and North Africa are highlighting their role in the protest movements that have toppled dictators in Tunisia and Egypt and appear on the verge of pushing through major changes in other places.

Twitter and Facebook were filled with messages of support for the women of Egypt and Tunisia, as well as protesters in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iran. Some posted video tributes to the female protesters, while others, perhaps bolstered by the energy of the protest movements, published their own demands for equal rights and a greater say in their countries' politics.


The top video calls for equal citizenship rights for Saudi women, while the second features women who took part in the Egyptian protest movement that forced former President Hosni Mubarak from power (both are subtitled in English).

Others took a more direct approach. A Million Woman March was planned for Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday, and activists in Beirut planned their own march against sexual harassment.

In Iran, opposition leaders called on women to use the occasion of InterPicture 7national Women's Day to take to the streets in protest of the ongoing crackdown against anti-government demonstrations.

Female activists in Bahrain told Agence France-Presse that it was important for women as Bahraini citizens to demand change.

"We women of Bahrain are different, and we protest in different ways, but we all want one thing: the end of sectarianism and corruption, and active participation in politics," Mariam Ruayhi, a leading women's rights activist in Bahrain, told AFP.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Upper video credit: citizenshipforwomen via YouTube

Lower video and photo credit: Yasmin Moll via Vimeo

Comments () | Archives (6)

Sadly, some among us, even at the highest political positions, promote the legitimacy of organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its off springs elsewhere in the Muslim-Arab world, e.g. Gaza, Jordan; ones that in addition promote the suppression of women but also go after Christians in their societies.

To be fair, no one group is perfect, here is a copy of an intelligent commentator post from another blog site!
"March 8 has been designated to commemorat­e the time when women joined the economy in general and the workforce in particular­. In this respect, as in many respects that concern women's lives, far-reachi­ng changes have indeed been made. Feminism is arguably the most successful revolution in contempora­ry times. But a close examinatio­n of the situation for women in Israel in recent years reveals a number of worrisome steps backward.
Let us set aside for the moment the really serious problems - traffickin­g in women, child marriages (Balad MK Hanin Zuabi is to submit a bill calling to raise the legal age at which girls can get married, but agreements between families in fact bypass even the existing law ), child prostituti­on, violence against women and so forth - and focus on the average woman here. A woman from the middle class, who has been told by the government that her life has improved immeasurab­ly in recent years thanks to the impressive growth of the economy. "


Thanks for you comment...

Muslims did not originate the practice of female genital mutilation but nonetheless numerous Islamic states have embraced the practice and incorporated it into their medical practice in a way NO OTHER RELIGION has done. NOT take MY word for it.

Simply go to YouTube and enter under word search the term "Islam Female Genital Mutilation" and you will see a brief but chilling video of numerous MUSLIM WOMEN from Egypt extolling the "BENEFITS" of "female circumcision" as well as vouching for the "safety" of this barbaric practice.

There are many other links, articles, etc on this topic, but this particular forum generally discourages internet hyperlinks, which is why I presented the above video in a way that abides by those restrictions.

Not so fast

Egyptian women's rights protest marred by hecklers

CAIRO – A protest by hundreds of Egyptian women demanding equal rights and an end to sexual harassment turned violent Tuesday when crowds of men heckled and shoved the demonstrators, telling them to go home where they belong.

The women — some in headscarves and flowing robes, others in jeans — had marched to Cairo's central Tahrir Square to celebrate International Women's Day. But crowds of men soon outnumbered them and chased them out.

"They said that our role was to stay home and raise presidents, not to run for president," said Farida Helmy, a 24-year old journalist.

Sexual harassment remains widespread in Egypt, where women often are afraid to report sexual assault or harassment for fear they and their families will be stigmatized. A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women in Cairo said they had been harassed — while 62 percent of men admitted to harassing.

Just a correction to the first and unique comment. I really applaud your encouragement to the middle East women and I join you on that subject. However, The female genital mutilation is a barbaric practice but definitely not Islamic. So let's just stop taking cheap shots on Islam and try to learn it. I m not trying to portray Islam as good or bad, not my position to do so. But, let’s just stick to the fact. I know pretty much about Islam and never seen in Koran nor Shariaa such a thing. This practice is common in really few regions of Africa and practiced by Muslim and non Muslim. It is more cultural than religious. Please check before you post.

This is all well and good and we need to applaud the stand of these brave women, but the sad fact is that if Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and its vast minions come to power, the rights of women in these majority Muslim nations will take a significant step BACKWARD.

It will be interesting to see how much lip service Al Jazeera English pays to International Women's Day amidst this democracy revolution, since the core leadership and upper ranks of Al Jazeera hierarchy is well-rooted in the thoroughly Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

No doubt Al Jazeera English will try to position itself as "pro-women's rights" in their quest for a growing audience in Europe and the U.S., but the true agenda of their Islamist policy can be seen in their Arabic-language programming, which is far less sympathetic to women's rights.

The bottom line is that Islam ITSELF is in drastic need of sweeping reform to eliminate its institutionalized oppression of women and girls. One great place to start would be in eliminating the barbaric Islamic practice of female genital mutilation, which fundamentalist Islam attempts to portray as a "health-related" female version of "circumcision".


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »



About the Contributors