In all the ongoing struggles in the region, the most progressive demands have been raised by women participants who oppose patriarchy and do not separate social justice from women’s emancipation. In order for the 2019 uprisings to move forward, the struggle for women’s emancipation and its inseparability from the struggle against capitalist exploitation and alienation needs to become much more explicit and act as a guiding light for the movement. What can socialist feminists in the region and around the world do to help in this effort?
November 4, 2019
The current wave of popular protests in Iraq and Lebanon are a breath of fresh air and a beacon of hope for the region and the world. What truly stands out in these protests and the uprisings which emerged earlier this year in Sudan and Algeria, is the presence of women and the ways in which the mostly young protesters do not separate the struggle for social justice from opposing religious, ethnic and other types of sectarianism and religious fundamentalism.
The protesters’ demands for the overthrow of regimes and the challenge to all the ruling factions, regional and global powers, reveal that the desire for a radical transformation in life and labor is alive and well in the MENA region. In Lebanon, women have formed barriers on the frontlines to protect the rest of the protesters, and have called out sexist and homophobic slogans. A woman kicking a firearm out of the hands of a man has become the icon of the Lebanese protests. In Iraq, women who have been protesting sexual harassment and rape, are active participants in the struggle. In Sudan, the symbol of the anti-military sit-in which was violently crushed by the military last June, was a woman. Sudanese women protesters were actively promoting discussions about their self-emancipation. In Algeria, the continuing mass protests involve a large number of young women who oppose the subservient roles that were re-imposed on women revolutionaries after the Algerian war of independence.
In all the ongoing struggles in the region, the most progressive demands have been raised by women participants who oppose patriarchy and do not separate social justice from women’s emancipation.
In order for the 2019 uprisings to move forward, the struggle for women’s emancipation and its inseparability from the struggle against capitalist exploitation and alienation needs to become much more explicit and act as a guiding light for the movement.
What can socialist feminists in the region do to help in this effort?
*Those of us who are from countries that act as sub-imperialist powers in the region, have a special responsibility to oppose our governments’ intervention in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Yemen. We need to oppose Iran’s military and political interventions in the region; reach out to our Kurdish sisters in Rojava who are under assault by Turkey and other regional powers; express our solidarity with Palestinian sisters who are organizing against both “honor” killings, sexual assault and Israeli colonialism; reach out to our Yemeni sisters who are being starved, raped and killed by Saudi Arabia’s war against the people of Yemen and by Houthi militiamen.
*We can publicize the cases of feminist political prisoners in Syria, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, Algeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, or feminists under assault in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
*We can highlight and combat the ways in which poor, working-class, displaced and racialized women are punished, bullied and imprisoned for attempting to support themselves and their families.
*We can find creative ways to support our joint struggles for an end to the compulsory hijab or any dress code imposed on women, employment and educational discrimination, enslavement of domestic workers, physical abuse, sexual harassment, rape and female genital mutilation. We can demand social protections, access to abortion rights, divorce and guardianship rights, maternity rights, and travel rights.
*We can organize consciousness raising sessions to discuss and develop socialist feminist concepts that can help us offer an alternative to capitalism, sexism, heterosexism and racism.
Socialist feminists outside the MENA region can also help in various ways by:
*Creating platforms for all of us to talk about the affirmative content of our mutual struggles.
*Opposing the imperialist role which your country might play in the region
*Publicizing the cases of women political prisoners in MENA
*Reaching out to women refugees from MENA and giving them platforms to speak freely and safely about why they have been forced to leave their countries and what is needed for them to feel safe to return if they wish. Supporting women refugees who choose to stay in their new countries.
*Developing and articulating the concept of socialist feminism, its vision of women’s emancipation and its alternative to capitalism.
Currently, we have a historic opportunity to build on the ongoing uprisings and popular protests in the MENA region and their concomitance with popular protests for social justice around the world, from Chile to Haiti and from China and Russia. Let’s engage in the dialogue and solidarity work that is needed.
If you wish to add your signature below and participate in this solidarity work, please contact the Alliance of Middle Eastern and North African Socialists at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 4, 2019
Abbas, Sara, Scholar/activist, Sudan/U.S.A
Abdelmoneim, Shadia /Feminist /Sudanese Communist Party
Afary, Frieda librarian, translator, writer, producer of Iranian Progressives in Translation, member of Alliance of MENA Socialists, U.S.A.
Afary, Mona, psychologist, U.S.A.
Acuner, Derya, Researcher, Italy/Turkey
Altun, Hakan Researcher, Germany
Ashrafi, Parvin, Iranian socialist feminist, Canada
Azizoglu-Bazan, Münevver, PhD candidate and activist of the Kurdish Women’s Movement, Germany
Cagatay, Selin, Scholar/Activist, Sweden/Turkey
Çakır, Pelin, activist/editor/humanitarian worker, Turkey
Ege, Elif, activist/scholar, Turkey
Ergün, Özengül , Activist, Turkey
Fidel, Raya, Information Science Professor Emerita, anti-Zionist Israeli, Radical Women, U.S.
Geghamyan, Hasmik , Educator and Lawyer with National Lawyers Guild. Oakland, U.S.A.
Hancı, Şahika, Feminist activist. Turkey
Hassan, Budour, Palestinian writer, Jerusalem
Hatoum, Raida, feminist, Lebanon
Al-Kateb, Lara, Syrian socialist feminist and member of Alliance of MENA Socialists
Kalkan, Seher, Graphic Design, Feminist Aktivist, Turkey
Karimi, Fatemeh, Women’s Rights and Minority Rights Activist, Europe
Masjedi, Fatemeh, Iranian academic activist, member of Alliance of MENA Socialists, Germany
Namazie, Maryam, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation in Iran, Iran/UK
El Naggar, Samia, scholar/ feminist activist/ Sudan
Rajabi, Afra, Iranian socialist feminist student and writer, member of Radical Women, U.S.
Rezaei, Roghayeh, Iranian Scholar/ researcher at Ottawa University, Canada
Rostami, Soma, Civil Rights Activist, Europe
Saki,, Özgül, teacher, Turkey
Sani, Ladan, Human Rights Advocate, U.S.A.
Sunay, Simlâ, ecofeminist architect, activist-researcher and author, Turkey.
Tevgera Jinên Azad (TJA) – Komisyona Diplomasiyê, Free Women’s Movement – Diplomacy Commission,
Northern Kurdistan, Turkey
Üstündağ, Nazan, academic and activist, Berlin
Vakili, Daliah, Researcher and activist, Germany
Yılmaz, Mürüvet , Turkey
Yur, Damla Research assistant and journalist, Turkey
Bartter, Isabelle , Socialist feminist, U.S.A.
Bitu, Feminist Activist, India
Cowden, Stephen, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Coventry University, U.K.
Dewan, Ritu, Vice President, Indian Society of Labour Economics. India.
Foster, Elea, feminist and activist, Greece
Ghosh, Saswati, Academic and activist, Kolkata, India
Hensman, Rohini, Writer, researcher and activist, India
Holmstrom, Nancy, Professor of Philosophy Emerita, Rutgers University – Newark, U.S.A.
Kelkar, Govind, Coordinator, Executive Director of GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation India
Leung, Lam Chi, socialist activist and writer , Hong Kong
Mahajan, Vandana, Independent feminist, India
Mandel, David, Chapter leader, Jewish Voice for Peace, National Lawyers Guild Member, Democratic Socialists of America, U.S.A.
Melampianaki, Zetta, feminist, socialist, and labor activist, Greece
Moss, Athena, feminist and activist, Greece
Patel, Pragna, Southall Black Sisters, U.K.
Quiquivix, Linda, PhD, community scholar, U.S.A.
Quirico, Monica, Historian, Turin, Italy
Räthzel, Nora, Department of Sociology, Umeå University, Sweden
Reimann, John, former recording secretary, Carpenters Local 713; editor, oaklandsocialist.com
Sáenz, Charlotte Maria, Core Faculty, School of Undergraduate Studies, California Institute of Integral Studies, U.S.A.
Selberg, Rebecca, senior lecturer in Gender Studies, Sweden
Seelhoff, Cheryl, writer and activist, U.S.A.
Waldern, Barbara, anti-imperialist activist, Canada
Wilde Botta, Emma, socialist activist and writer, U.S.A.
Wind, Ella, NYU GSOC-UAW 2110, United States/Canada
Zuur, Cheryl, Former president AFSCME local 444, U.S.A.