The female face of Arab Spring
The hopes of women standing at the forefront of the "Arab Spring" were not met. The dictators were overthrown, the reforms were carried out, but women were not given the rights they hoped for. On the contrary, even the few slight successes they had achieved at the time have dissolved. Now they have to fight for their rights on the Internet.
A Lebanese activist Haidar Diyala along with four like-minded women launched a campaign on Facebook The Uprising of Women in the Arab World in October of 2011 to tell the world about the injustices against women in the region. 28-year-old Diyala wrote that the Arab Spring was held under the banner of freedom, dignity and equality, but they could not be established if the women were left out of the equation. She added that at every stage of history, we have heard nothing but excuses, e.g., the war was not the time to discuss such issues. Now it was the time to say: we want our rights, she said.
Her Facebook page has nearly 80,000 Likes, and now The Uprising of Women in the Arab World has moved to its own site. The movement is currently running two campaigns. Under the first campaign women send their photos with posters showing the words of support for other women. The other campaing, with the support of the UN, collects stories of violence, harassment and discrimination, making such incidents public.
So far only the bravest responded to Diyala's call. Dozens of women who shared their stories complained that they could not talk about it to anyone else, or bring the perpetrators to justice. "The revolution is not done in secret, it is done publicly," said Haidar. "We must begin to share their stories and concerns publicly. This would prove that such incidents are not exceptional cases, but a part of everyday life, and we must work hard to overcome violence. "
Twenty-two-year-old Rahma from Tunisia wrote that a man whom she was unable to bring to justice has been after her since she was nine: "In our culture, these issues are taboo, and for the honor of the family they are hushed up. Such absurd 'honor'".
Diyala's campaign, as she explained, was designed to challenge the patriarchal understanding of "honor", protected by discriminatory legal system. "We have to get rid of the guilt that society imposes on us when it comes to sexual harassment and violence in the family," Haidar added.
One such case occurred recently with a 27-year-old Tunisian girl raped by two police officers who accused her of indecency (all she did was sitting in a car with her fiancé). The victim did not remain silent. She filed a complaint against the officers, and was eventually issued a formal apology on behalf of the state, though only after the case was widely publicized. Earlier, a 16-year old resident of Morocco committed suicide after the court ordered her to marry her rapist.
According to Diyala, the increase in sexual violence and constant attacks of groups of men on women became one of key issues in the post-revolutionary Egypt. Another concern is that equal rights of women will not be included in the new "Sharia" draft constitution. However, it is too early to say that the Arab Spring has failed for women. This can only be stated when women themselves declare the failure of their mission. Diyala concluded that one cannot betray the women standing up to defend their rights and deciding to take advantage of this historic moment.