“So that men would stop looking at my body and start focusing on my thoughts.”
“Because I do not want to work twice as much as my brother and get half his pay.”
“Because I reject the law that sanctions raping me as a little girl under the name of marriage.”
“Because I have the right to give my nationality to my children.”
“Because I feel secure abroad while nobody respects me at home.”
These are not cliché sentences that have been uselessly repeated over time, but statements by women and girls from different parts of the Arab world who have decided to expose a reality that can no longer be neglected.
The women stood with slogans on which they wrote such statements. They had their pictures taken and sent to the Uprising of Women in the Arab world page on Facebook. In no time, the page gained support from thousands of women hailing from different backgrounds from across the region. Even men started taking part.
The page was later blocked by Facebook for a while after a post by a young Syrian woman named Dana Bakdounes. The woman appeared unveiled in a picture she posted of herself but the passport she held in front of the camera had a picture of her veiled.
The page is full of pictures of women of all age groups calling for the continuation of the Arab Spring, which has now become a reason for fear, as much as a source of hope.
This page and the campaign it represents were launched two months ago at a time when women’s rights were being dealt one blow after the other in Arab Spring countries. They, therefore, voice the apprehensions of a wide variety of women in different Arab countries, a sizable portion of who took part in the revolutions staged in their countries because they felt they needed to be part of the change, not as women, but as citizens and members of the community.
But these women, who were killed and jailed, who staged sit-ins and took part in protests, are still treated as women rather than citizens and this becomes obvious in the way they are constantly harassed. Can we forget sexual assaults and virginity tests for example?
Fear and apprehension have become the most common sentiments for us in this part of the world. How can we not feel this way when what we saw as the success of Arab revolutions is now turning into a failure and a source of frustration?
However, the efforts of the five women who launched the Facebook page and their determination to fight the anti-women tide following the Arab revolutions still give us hope and rescue us from falling prey to feelings of despair and negativity.
Contemporary women activists sport an amazing combination between the energy that keeps them going and the knowledge of technology that enables them to be part of a struggle that is bound to be fierce and in which they will strive to hold on to already acquired gains and obtain new ones despite all the powers that attempt at preventing them from doing so.
(Diana Moukalled is a writer for Asharq al-Awsat where this article was published on Nov. 15, 2012)