I have to confess that I know so little of the plight of women in the Middle East. For more than 6 years, my focus has been on social justice issues in China, North Korea, S.E. Asia and parts of Central Asia and Africa (ie. trafficking issues, HIV/AIDS, migrants).
Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot of Egyptian women and in general, women’s rights in the Middle East (protests have broken out in Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya). What will change for women and their freedom when the riots and protests quiet down and a new regime takes over in those nations?
Now in light of the revolutions that are erupting and the seismic global shifts that are taking shape, it’s critical that we learn more about these Middle Eastern women and the issues they face. What’s taking place now in the Mid East will change our world in the West, Europe, Africa and Asia forever. What these women contend with, will be our fight as women in the rest of the world and be what concerns us intimately. John Donne put it well in saying: “No man is an island.”
My good friend, an American diplomat, forwarded me an NPR article on harassment against women in Egypt and after reading it, I feel this heavy burden to stand with the women and pray for women’s rights in the Mid East… Any woman, at any age, can relate to the widespread harassment Egyptian women face, having at one point or another experienced unwanted male attention or sexism in some form (ie. catcalls from men, sexist remarks from male colleagues or students, or even from fathers in some patriarchal cultures who emphasize getting married over careers), and harassment from delusional men.
Let’s hope that these Egyptian women will be protected during this chaotic time and when the regime handover ends:
Activists say attacks on women have been encouraged by the culture of impunity that has existed for many years here. The regime of former President Hosni Mubarak did little to punish perpetrators — and the victims, because of the stigma, often stayed silent.
Women are hoping that will now change. A unique aspect of the revolution was that women participated in huge numbers. They slept in Tahrir Square and marched alongside their male counterparts. They say harassment was rare during that period.
How utterly tragic it will be IF dark elements get into power and start oppressing women in these nations where prior to the revolutions, women were relatively free. Women from religious minorities, ie. Christian women will particularly be at higher risk for abuse. Now is the time to prepare for these worst case scenarios!