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


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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 International 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