In October 2011, a group of activists started a campaign to advocate for women’s rights across the Middle East and North Africa. The organizers of the campaign, Uprising of Women in the Arab World, originated in Tunisia. Below is their interview with Tunisia Live.
The Uprising Of Women in the Arab World is a social media phenomenon that started as a Facebook page and grew into a blog, and additional profiles on other social networks such as Twitter. On their Facebook page, which has over 90,000 fans so far, the young group of cyber-activists who run the initiative describe themselves as “Together for fearless, free and independent women in the Arab world.” The initiative has gained support internationally from women’s rights activists, media figures, and even celebrities. The Facebook page has received thousands of photos from contributors and supporters expressing solidarity with The Uprising of Women in the Arab World. Additionally, a section on the blog enables victims of abuse and discrimination to share their experiences with readers.
In an interview with Tunisia Live, the site’s administrators chose not to reveal their identities, saying the page succeeds due to active contributions from members and fans.
TUNISIA LIVE: How did The Uprising of Women in the Arab World start? Whose idea was it and what inspired you to start it?
THE UPRISING OF WOMEN IN THE ARAB WORLD: The page was created in October 2011, after the first democratic elections in the post-revolution Arab countries, because we couldn’t tolerate anymore what was “excused” by the dictatorship rules. The Arab revolutions were led in the name of freedom and dignity and yet women’s rights were kept in the drawer. We were fed up by the eternal sentence: “now is not the time to talk about women’s rights; there are priorities.” So by creating this page we refused to resign to defeat but instead decided to keep battling fearlessly for our FULL rights, without waiting for anyone’s authorization or for “good timing,” with no (self) censorship and no compromise whatsoever.
Also, one of the intentions of this page was to honor the women who had participated in the revolutions, such as Samira Ibrahim, Tawakkol Karman, Fadwa Suleiman and Zeinab El Khawaja.
Last but not least, there is an element which is the most incredible and precious thing about the Arab Spring: it has succeeded in creating a communion between the citizens of Arab countries, which their leaders have always failed to do. Not one Arab state has shown solidarity to another (not before, during or after the revolutions). … But something unprecedented had happened between the people: we were each following each country’s revolution as if it was our own country. This solidarity is a strength, this is hope, this is our future. We should learn from this, reflect upon what happened, and continue building upon it. So this phenomenon inspired us to create this page and inspired its title: to lead a common fight for women’s rights in all Arab countries, independently of our cultural differences and our political regimes. It is a human battle for human rights. We believe that the Arab world has had enough violence and oppression and it’s time to rethink the concept of freedom, which starts in the liberation of the human being.
What are the goals of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World? What do you hope to achieve?
– Absolute freedom of thought, of expression, of belief or disbelief, of movement, of body, of clothing, of lodging, of decision making, of marriage or non-marriage
– The right to autonomy, to education, to work, to divorce, to inheritance, to vote, to eligibility, to administrate, to ownership and to full citizenship
– Familial, social, political and economic absolute equality with men
– The abolition of all laws, practices and fatwas violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as excision, stoning, lashing, the laws acquitting rapists or tolerating crimes of “honor”
– Protection against domestic violence, sexual harassment and all forms of physical and psychological abuse and discrimination facing women today in the Arab world and beyond.
We want the Arab Spring to continue until it does to women what spring does to cherry trees.
Were there any attempts to censor any content on your page? If yes, from whom? And why?
We didn’t face any serious censorship problems, except Dana Bakdounes’ picture that got censored three times on Facebook.
However, there has been a lot of criticism, and we’re subjected daily to a lot of insults. This was predictable; if we didn’t know about that we wouldn’t have created this page in the first place. But it’s quite interesting because it reveals a lot about our region. It brings out all the hypocrisy to the front. We always hear that “Arab women are treated like queens” or that they already (have) their freedom, so it’s interesting to see the aggressive reactions of some when they see free, independent and fearless women who are speaking out publicly about what the Arab world tries to hide constantly. But now, at last, we can all stand in solidarity facing these attacks, and solidarity is strength, and tell those who are putting barriers to our freedoms that we’re not asking for their authorizations nor even their opinions, and that we will conquer it by force if we have to. Arab men are not used to that; they think that they have the last word. We will prove the contrary.
What are the next steps? Your future plans for The Uprising of Women in the Arab World?
We have a lot of projects for 2013. We are currently working on launching a new campaign that aims to inform people about the laws discriminating against women all around the Arab world, in order to become a force to impose changes in those laws. We are also planning on writing a book. … We are creating a calendar with all important dates regarding women in all Arab countries, so we can act upon it. We’re also planning shaming campaigns attacking the regimes which discriminate against women or those who caution or collaborate with them. We’re developing our visual identity and will be having t-shirts and stickers printed and distributed all around. We’re collaborating with people doing a movie, a documentary, and an exhibition, or other art forms around the subject. And the list goes on and keeps growing, as our team keeps enlarging and enriching the Intifada (uprising).