MENA: Reflections on Women in the Arab Spring

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Middle East Program Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Western Asia

Women were active participants in demonstrations and the protest movement in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and other countries. During the uprisings, there was no gender segregation among the demonstrators—not in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Manama's Pearl Square, nor on the streets of Tunis, Sana'a, and Tripoli. Women and men stood side by side, marched together, protected each other from government forces, and were united in calling for reform and regime change. But once the anciens regimes fell, the old barriers of segregation went up. Women were harassed, beaten, and chased out of public spaces. To everyone's dismay, only nine women were elected to the Egyptian parliament, and no woman was elected to the Kuwaiti parliament. But as these reflections of women who were participants or keen observers of the Arab Spring demonstrate, there is no turning back. As in Iran, where women have fought for their rights for three decades under the Islamic Republic, the women of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and the rest of the Middle East are determined that the struggle for women's rights must continue.