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Arab women protesters – not free, just figureheads

Glorifying the role of Arab women in the uprisings uses them like some sort of mascot – yet their rights are the first to be relegated

A common theme since the Arab uprisings started has been the celebration of the role of women in the protests. Some have even gone so far as to say that the "stereotype of the submissive, repressed victim has been shattered by female protesters in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen". I am not sure that women on the ground in these countries feel the same way, or feel that their participation in the protests is unprecedented.

While I understand how tempting it is to draw grand conclusions from such seismic events, those who say the perception of women has been revolutionised are either jejune or lacking in historical perspective.

It is nothing new. Women have often been at the forefront of popular dissent on the rare occasions when it has happened, and activists such as Nawal el Saadawi have been thorns in the side of Arab regimes for decades. Tawakul Karman, the 32-year-old Yemeni human rights activist, who now finds herself heading the popular protest movement had been a campaigner and agitator long before the protests started.

Soumaya Ghannoushi also cites the case of Saida Sadouni, a 77-year-old woman who is now "widely hailed as the mother of Tunisia's revolution, a living record of her country's modern history and its struggle for emancipation". This is not an uncommon theme.

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March 27th, Ophelia Benson of Butterflies and Wheels puts the role of Muslim women into proper perspective

The world as it should be

Men in front, doing all the talking; women in back, wearing black tents, silent.



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