Women of the Arab Spring fight back

Published: January 11, 2012

The writer is a Bangladeshi-born Washington-based author of the blog, Anushay’s Point. She is a columnist at Forbes Woman, The Huffington Post, Ms Magazine and can be followed on Twitter @AnushaysPoint

The Arab Spring has gotten off to a bloody start in 2012 with clashes in Syria increasingly getting more violent amidst allegations of massacres. Two weeks ago, ongoing violence between the military and civilian populations in Egypt triggered women in Cairo to mobilise around aggression that began to specially target women.

The horrifying images of just how brutal the military can be towards women went viral. The video showing military police dragging a woman wearing a hijab through the street, beating her senseless, then stomping on her stomach, her bright blue bra exposed as she lay motionless on the street defines the struggle of the Egyptian people. Protesters held up signs with her images, chanting warnings such as, “This is the army that is protecting us!”

Several hundred women kicked off a ‘Million Woman’ march to expose the military’s sexual violence against female demonstrators. Protesters held up pictures of women, elderly people and teenagers who had been beaten up by the police, demanding a regime change. Many men even formed a protective circle around female marchers so that they would not be assaulted.

Their efforts to raise awareness of what was happening to civilians on the ground in Egypt, as the country struggles to cultivate a post-Mubarak era, prompted condemnations from the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, until the Egyptian military finally accepted responsibility and apologised.

There is a reason why Time Magazine picked the protester as its Person of the Year, and there is a reason why that image is that of a woman. Since the Arab Spring, it has been women, from Iran to Saudi Arabia to Egypt, who have not only been on the frontlines of the protests, demanding more rights, but also shaping their country’s revolutions.

The problem is not with getting women on the streets during these times of passionate protests, but keeping them there. It is after the euphoria fades, after the dictator is placed in custody when the political blueprint of a country is being determined that women are nowhere to be heard.

We repeatedly see this. From Bangladesh’s War of Independence, to Iran in 1979, to Libya, and all over the Middle East today, where are the women when it comes to forming the new government? What Egyptian women are showing us today is truly revolutionary because they are refusing to be sidelined in determining the future of their country. They were and are a part of Egypt’s revolution. Social media and the Internet are women’s weapons to ensure their voices will not be silenced.

If the image of the woman in her blue bra being stomped senseless on the streets of Cairo shows us anything it is that this revolution is being televised, and the world is watching. Egyptian women are showing us that without women, and without women’s rights, no country can become a real democracy.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2012.

Reader Comments (7)

  • SalSal
    Jan 12, 2012 - 12:05AM

    You know what’s the most annoying and pathetic and degrading part? People started referring to that woman as the ‘Blue Bra Girl’. REALLY???!!! how disgusting !!

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  • S A
    Jan 12, 2012 - 12:18AM

    Yeah, the Arab spring movement was women geared!

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  • raheel
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:32AM

    First of all all Muslim countries should put-off the label of Islam as they are doing nothing in accordance with it and Secondly now they should learn how to respect Women and accept them as individuals..!!!

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  • Mj
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:56AM

    Do not forget to mention the heartening news of women fighting back.

    Egyptian women cane Salafi vigilantes after beauty salon swoop

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  • Zoon
    Jan 12, 2012 - 11:57AM

    Just placing all countries where Islam is relevant in the public sphere in one category is a bit uncalled for, if you had traveled to Iran you’d know that the only difference between Irani and American women is that the former wear a scarf. otherwise they are free to work, represent their nation on the international platform etc
    Iranian women were a part of the Revolution in 1979.

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  • Abhi
    Jan 12, 2012 - 2:11PM

    @zoon
    I have seen photograph of Iran’s football team and I have seen them playing volleyball. If you are telling that women in Iran are as free as USA, it is a big joke.

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  • Kafka
    Jan 12, 2012 - 4:52PM

    NATO jumped into action to provide cover to Libyan rebels. Why is it deaf to the cries of Syrian people??

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