This year, November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, has more significance for Iranian women. They continue their fight as leaders of a feminist uprising, chanting “Woman, life, freedom” against systematic discrimination, repression and violence.
The death in police custody of Mahsa Jina Amini in September 2022, sparked national protests and women have remained in the streets ever since. A revolution sparked by governmental femicide, violence and the imposition of the mandatory hijab has now turned into a broad-based anti government uprising demanding fundamental change.
A movement that started in support of women, sadly has turned unsafe for women, who are subjected to sexual harassment during protests, or are arrested and interrogated as a result.
In the past year, femicide, as the most heinous form of violence against women, has occurred at alarming rates in the region. In Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Turkey, and Kuwait, the killing of women has led to widespread social outcry and protest.
In July, women human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa launched a campaign to raise awareness about increased femicide, including strikes, protests and rallies.
In Palestine, women have been fighting occupation for decades, alongside male counterparts. Yet, on September 26, 2019, thousands of women held demonstrations in the streets of 12 cities against increasing gender-based violence in Palestine. Since then, protests against the violence that Palestinian women experience have continued in many ways.
Meanwhile, the intensity of repression and the securitization of the demand for women’s rights by feminist groups is on the rise across the region. Governments in the region are actively pushing back on and restricting civic space and working to eliminate independent civil society. They plan to take away the fundamental right of people to peacefully dissent and protest and increase the costs for those who work toward positive change.
As civic space has shrunk, many women’s groups have turned to online spaces for raising public awareness and for their activities. But even these spaces remain unsafe for women, who face online attacks, threats and harassment. In Lebanon, women took to the streets of Beirut in December 2019, to protest the increased and intensified targeting of women for online harassment and violence.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, is our chance to speak up and stand together against different forms of violence experienced by women. During these 16 days we plan to speak about the different forms of violence faced by women in the MENA region.