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She is A Woman… Hit Her

She is A Woman… Hit Her

Monday, 5 July, 2021 - 10:00

What happened recently at the Tunisian parliament is infuriating. A parliamentarian by the Name of Sahbi Samara suddenly leaped from his seat. Confident in his stride, he walked towards his colleague, Free Constitutional Party leader Abir Moussi. He took a few steps and then slapped her, hard. Another parliamentarian, Seiffedin Makhlouf, who apparently didn’t like Samara’s “leniency,” finished the job by kicking Moussi in the knee. There was a bit of mayhem and hubbub, but parliament did not stop working. It is normal!

Two factors intensify the fury. First, this is Tunisia, the only country whose revolution was relatively successful. Among the fruits of that success was the ratification, in 2017, of Law 58 to combat violence against women and strive to achieve gender equality. Second: it is parliament, a space that should reflect equality between citizens before playing its two primary roles, passing legislation and monitoring the executive. Mr. Samara and Mr. Makhlouf wanted to turn parliament into another space where women obey, one larger, more powerful and more influential than a family home.

Today, this audacity to attack women is taking various forms elsewhere in our region.

Take Turkey, for example: a few months ago, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to take his country out of the “Istanbul Convention,” which is aimed at protecting women from violence. Turkey has now officially withdrawn.

The arguments put forward by those who defend the withdrawal are bizarre: ‘‘the Convention promotes homosexuality and contributes to the disintegration of the family and society!’’

Turkey, where violence against women has increased noticeably over the past few years, will certainly witness a greater increase after the removal of this deterrence. This is also normal. The important thing is that foreigners do not interfere in our affairs, for we know better how to deal with our women. Are we not independent and sovereign?

News of women’s tribulations have been circulating profusely, and they take many forms, as well as happening on a variety of levels. Recently, in Iran’s presidential elections, forty out of the forty women who had submitted their candidacy were rejected. All of them were rejected, no exceptions. It could be said that men are no luckier, as shown by the fact that about 590 of them were also rejected. Nevertheless, seven men were allowed to run for office, and one of them, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected president.

The Syrian people, who are struggling against their suffering, exile and the loss of their loved ones, had the assault on the symbols of their sacrifices, especially their women icons, added to the list. The lawyer, Haitham al-Maleh, dubbed the “sheikh of Syrian jurists,” explained Zahran Alloush’s kidnapping of activist Razan Zaitouneh as being a consequence of her “not appeasing her conservative environment by dressing modestly,” and he did not hide his disappointment with her for “refusing to obey his orders” while she was working in a law firm he ran. Those who defended him found no better argument than referring to him having called Zaitouneh “his daughter,” and fathers, of course, are keen on ensuring that their daughters dress modestly and come back home before sunset!

Yes, women are easy targets, opponents against whom values, morals, religion, nationalism and heritage can be deployed. All of this and more is happening before Afghanistan is “liberated” as a result of the US withdrawal and before the Taliban regains control of the country, as observers unanimously predict. With regard to women, the Taliban which is liberating Afghanistan today, is superior to Khomeini, who had liberated Iran yesterday and who, in turn, outdid the revolution that had liberated Algeria the day before.

We are moving up then, thanks to God’s grace. The methods and degrees vary, but the goal is one and the same.

Women’s persecution is exacerbating today for reasons linked to the situation in the region: its fragmentation, its inability to either keep things as they are or take off into a new state of affairs, its poverty and despondency, the unemployment of its peoples, and the collapse of their economic, health and education systems... These are issues that incur a higher cost on women than men. She is the first victim. He is the second.

However, responding to these issues with abuse and prejudice stems from two other sources: first, in our experiences with “women’s liberations,” from Kamal Ataturk to Habib Bourguiba, the negative repercussions equaled gains. Equality was linked to the state, not freedom, and separating religion from the state received a bigger share than separating the state from religion. It thus became easy for the Islamists and their supporters to paint everything progressive, including women’s freedoms, as being against the people and their freedom. As for the second source, it is the flood of political hostility to the West that became a cultural hostility to modernity. Decolonization, in this case, becomes closer to decivilization, as Yassin al-Hafiz used to say and warn us of. This is how the equation in place became: more national liberation equals more backwardness and more authoritarianism.

Amid the presence of such hindrances, we have called upon and continue to call upon the worst aspects of our “national” or “authentic” heritage and traditions, which, as soon as they open their mouths, hurl damnations at women.

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