Chair: Prof. Madawi al-Rasheed (King's College London)
· Reem Mohamed (School of Oriental and African Studies)
Betrayal or realistic expectations? Egyptian women revolting
History has witnessed women participating and contributing to liberation movements, and yet they are repeatedly sidelined in the process of political transition, as gender issues are considered less pressing than 'national' ones. The Egyptian uprising is no exception, where men and women were present during 18 days of demonstration in Tahrir Square. They were united against the former government, demanding a decent livelihood, freedom and human dignity. Women’s presence was not only welcomed, but also encouraged because it reflected unity and gave a liberal image to the uprising. However, as soon as the battle became a political one, women were not welcomed. They were absent from official political negotiations and they have a weak presence in the elected parliament and in major political parties. Moreover, their presence as protesters was criticized and met with violence. This paper aims to discuss changing attitudes towards women’s participation in the movement during and after the 'Tahrir days'. It shows that conservative attitudes towards women in public space were only temporarily suspended for 18 days of demonstrations for the sake of national unity, while arguing that the lack of women’s participation is also due to a failure of the women’s movement to organize itself.
· Katja Zvan Elliott (University of Oxford)
Morocco and its struggle to live up to its constitutional commitments and its liberalising image
In March 2011, Morocco’s king announced constitutional reforms as his answer to the demonstrations organised by the 20th February Movement. The preamble to the new constitution follows the example of its 1996 version, in which the state declared its “determination to abide by the universally recognised human rights.” However, how do Morocco’s constitutional reforms and declarations in the international forums relate to the reaffirmation of patriarchal gendered relations in its legal order and in the mainstream society?
On the basis of the ethnographic material and textual analysis, I shall argue that the Moroccan state fails to comply with the international order as regards women’s rights and gender equality. As such, it fails to live up to its reputation as a progressive and liberalising state and society. I will look at the implementation of the reformed Family Code and its stated goals to “bring justice to women and preserve men’s dignity,” and at the peculiar case of Morocco’s withdrawal in April 2011 of the reservations to articles 16 and 9 (2) of the CEDAW, while keeping its declarations to articles 2 and 15 (4). I contend that this in effect invalidated the removal of the reservations, as well as contravening the previous and current constitutions. Once again, Morocco reformed its form but not the substance.
· Sara Bergamaschi, Deya Bhattacharya and Sarah Jones (Femin Ijtihad)
The participation of Muslim women in revolutions across the Arab world has challenged perceptions of their lack of agency. Libya proved no exception, as women provided important practical support for anti-Gaddafi forces. But Libya remains stagnant on gender equality. Women have been restricted to ceremonial roles within the new administration, and Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil publicly declared his intention to create an Islamic state governed by shari’ah. Jalil’s policies, possibly motivated by the discrepancy between Gaddafi’s state feminism and his actual oppression of women, categorically exclude women from meaningful political involvement despite their lauded participation in the revolution. This reflects a broader conflict within Islamic scholarship as reformists clash with fundamentalists over Islam’s capacity for reform.
For some contemporary jurists, concepts like ijtihad create space for innovative interpretations of shari’ah, and allow a jurisprudence that protects gender equality. Conservatives resist this as an assault on Islam’s theological purity and historical identity. Through interviews conducted with activists and analyses of the theological structures in Islam that frame this debate over reform, we intend to critique the current state of gender equality in Libya and gauge the potential effects of this intellectual conflict on the political inclusion of Libyan women.
· Raquel Carvalheira (University of Lisbon)
The starting point of this presentation consists of anthropological fieldwork carried out in a women’s association in Essaouira, Morocco, during 2011. The association aims at supporting and helping women in difficult situations, most of them victims of domestic violence, abandoned by their husbands or undergoing divorce procedures. As in other Arab countries, Morocco has experienced various political and social changes since 2011, as the referendum on the new constitution and the election of an Islamist political party for the first time in Moroccan history illustrate. The country is often portrayed as the most democratic country in the region, especially with regard to women’s rights and civil society, but many demonstrations and strikes have taken place during the last year, with people calling for better prospects and greater rights. Essaouira is a small city far away from major urban and political centres where decisions are made and where social movements have a significant impact. Women’s stories and associational activities show that although Moroccan society is being induced by events taking place in other countries, everyday life continues and often tends to perpetuate the mechanisms of power and submission that social movements see as undemocratic in the Moroccan monarchic and political system.
·Hamdi Malik (Brunel University)
The Influence of Information and Communication Technologies on Women’s Emancipation in Post-Saddam Iraq
This paper displays the influence of Information and Communication Technologies on women’s emancipation in post-Saddam Iraq. Our research applies the Durkheimian concepts of 'social solidarity' and 'anomie' in order to examine the role that new media technologies are playing in shaking the old established norms of the Iraqi society, particularly norms that relate to women and ICTs’ role in shaping new norms. The vast majority of people in Iraq under the rule of the Ba'ath Party (1963-2003) were deprived of many ICTs such as the Internet, mobile telephony and Satellite TV. After the American led invasion in 2003 that overthrew the Ba'ath Party, however, all these technologies were quickly introduced into the country. Drawing upon interviews carried out with journalists, clerics, women’s rights activists, politicians, university lecturers, tribe chiefs, and ‘ordinary’ men and women, we will illustrate the extent to which the introduction of these new technologies have had genuine influence on the identity of women in Iraqi society.