Mothers of revolution.

Flickr: Lokha. CC license.

 When the revolution started, Arab women ended up with the submission that had made them remain in silence for years. It was the time to say “Stop” to the regime and the lack of freedom in their countries but this was only the starting point of a huger change.
Once people know what their goals are and are conscious of how powerful they are fighting together, it is very difficult to stop them. This is a reason why Arab women are now playing an important role in activism fighting for their rights, as they have been a very strong part of the Arab spring and now they want to continue the battle. They felt that the values that wanted to be achieved, as justice and freedom, couldn’t be reached if women are excluded. This led the way to the creation of the campaign “The uprising of women in the Arab world” in October 2011. Their demands focus on different types of freedom, equality and abolition of certain laws and practices that are against Human Rights.
The first step has been overthrowing the dictators from the government of Middle East and North African countries, but the next one is to end up with the situation that allows every man to be a dictator for his wife, daughter, mother…
The Internet has been a very powerful tool, not only in the Arab spring, but also on these new initiatives for women’s rights. The Facebook page of this campaign has reached the support of more that 100.000 people. Facebook has been their most powerful weapon but they also utilize other pages as Twitter (@Uprisingofwomen), with more that 4.000 followers and Flickr. They use Flickr as a way to show support from both women and men through photographs of them with a message. Mohamad_Jordan is with the uprising of women in the Arab world “because if the mind of a woman dies, the mind of a nation would die”. Marina_Jordan also supports it because she has honour too. “Honour is not only for men”. The Flickr page is full of photos of people showing their support and the reasons why they think women are doing things right in fighting for getting the same rights as men. 

Flickr has also been used with the same purpose in a campaign of Amnesty International to show support to activist women in Saudi Arabia, especially to Manal Al Sharif, a woman participating in the campaign “Women 2 Drive” that was detained because of it. This campaign consisted of women recording themselves driving, to share the video later on through the Internet. They created a Facebook page: “Saudi Women to drive” dedicated to the citizens of the world that support women’s freedom in Saudi Arabia and a Twitter account (@W2Drive).

This is part of “My Right to Dignity” movement, in which both women and men seek to restore all of Saudi Women’s Rights, as they believe Islam is not in favour of the discrimination that women suffer. They spread their information through Facebook pages as “Saudi Women Spring” (in Arabic) and “Teach me how to drive,let’s all support the Saudi Women Basic Rights” (in English).

Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is an international solidarity network that gives support to women of Islam world. It was started by nine women from Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Iran, Mauritius, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Pakistan with the idea of create a collective space for women of the Islam world with the help of global feminism. It has launched several campaigns as “The violence is not our culture”, that tries to end up with all the forms of violence that try to justify themselves with cultural reasons. Facebook and Twitter are, again, useful tools for activists to get in touch with everybody interested on it. This page also offers a list where you can include your email to receive all the information in which they are working. They encourage people to help them through the Internet providing documents and investigations to reach out the media and alert the relevant United Nation offices about violation of human rights.

From more general and international campaigns and initiatives we can move to others developed in specific countries. During the Syrian uprising, women took part in the peaceful protests against the regime, as it happened in all the countries where the Arab spring spread, but their role diminished as the degree of violence increased. Arab women want the things to be done in a proper way, and violence is not the correct mean. That’s why four Syrian women, dressed in her wedding gowns, went to the streets with red banners with the motto “Stop all military operations in Syria. 100% Syrian”. This was put out by Freedom Days Syria, an organization that coordinates non-violent resistance groups. It got a great support among the Syrian population. Other organization, Free Syrians Group, released a statement of support for these women that were detained during the march. Syrian Women for the Syrian Intifada (SANAD) also showed its support on Facebook, and many pages were created for the same reason in that social network. This “Stop the killing” campaign has been initiated by women that, one more time, show how powerful they are and even when the government tries to hush them, thousand of voices raise all over the Internet (and so, all over the world).

When we thought every way of fight was seen, Arab women show us that the spring revolution has given them inspiration to innovate. Esra’a Al-Shafei created Mideast tunes, a platform of music about human rights and freedom to promote social change. Shafei is a Bahraini activist with innovating ideas. She has also founded Mideast youth, a platform of tweets, blogs, stories, links, videos and forums with the same goal that Mideast tunes. This site is very visited by Arab activists (not only the ones in Bahrain) to get ideas and support. This enables a huge cooperation online. Shafei focuses on minority rights, and because of that there is a great work on women, but not only on them. She considers that as a Bahraini woman she wants to get more rights but recognizes that in comparison to religious minorities or migrant, she has more rights. “I’m Muslim, Arab, a member of the mainstream that has more freedom of speech and more comfortable life. We can’t progress as a society if we leave the most vulnerable behind”. However, she doesn’t stop her work with these two initiatives. With the help of Twitter and Facebook she has promoted every idea for social change, as Crowdvoice to track voices of protests all around the world.
However, Shafei is not the only person that has promoted original campaigns in defending women’s rights. Both men and women in Yemen did it through an artistic representation on the street. This campaign was promoted by WCI-ALWANE. In Arabic, alwane means my colours, which represents very well this initiative, as people colour the wall of a street to spread the message of equity. Thanks to the Internet, lots of photos of this wall have been spread and many people know about its existence and the cooperation that was produced between men and women in painting it.

Another way of activism in all revolutions, as we have already seen, is videoactivism.
The campaign in Saudi Arabia threatened the stability of the subordination of women in that country and in Egypt, one more time, video is used as the weapon of pacific activism. WWER initiative uses the video as the basic tool to share the experiences of women during the revolution. It started by interviewing some of the female activists who took part in demonstrations and marches all over Cairo. At the beginning, women thought their contributions were insignificant and that there were other experiences more worthy to be shared but at the end, the become very inspirational for other people. WWER shared these videos through social media channels as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and finally created an archive of all these videos in collaboration with Mosireen, a non-profit media centre that promotes activism.
The same happened in Morocco when the activists used the Internet to call Moroccan population to go to the streets to protest on February 20th, 2011, giving their reasons to do it. This covered lots of issues as freedom, improve of education, labour rights and also gender equality.

They have been the mothers of Arab spring revolution and now it’s time for them to get the summer, fall and winter rights they deserve.


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