The group "The uprising of women in the Arab world" is taking a courageous stand for gender equality. However, the activists face significant resistance: from old ways of thinking, patriarchal chauvinism – and even from Facebook. Laura Overmeyer reports
The women of the Arab world felt great hope when the uprisings against the dictatorial regimes began in the spring of 2011. Side by side with men, they demonstrated for dignity, justice and freedom. Their hope was for change: an escape from a patriarchal social system hostile to women, which denies them basic rights and discriminates against them in both public and private life. Women's rights are a fundamental part of democracy and thus, they assumed, radical change was bound to extend to the social arena.
The majority of respondents were women from the Arab world, but a great deal of support came from further afield: This photo was handed in by Paola from LebanonNow, two years after the revolutions, that euphoria has given way to disillusionment; the situation has by no means improved for women. Islamic forces are riding a wave of success, washing in a tide of conservative ideas, particularly on gender issues. Women are being reduced to their bodies more than ever before, with sexual assaults on the increase. In almost all Arab countries, legislation that puts women at a disadvantage is still in place, especially civil laws.
Women's rights put on a back burner
A return to the previous status quo, in other words. And it seems that women's rights in general are being put on a back burner, with the concerns of one section of society valued clearly below those of the nation as a whole.
Many women, however, do not want to let the chance for change pass them by, among them four young activists from Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt. They decided to use the same means that brought success for the Arab Spring to launch their own uprising. In October 2011 they set up the Facebook page "The uprising of women in the Arab world".
"We want the Arab Spring to continue. After political tyranny, we're now fighting patriarchal tyranny – in all the Arab countries," Yalda Younes, one of the initiators, told a major German newspaper.