January 28, 2013

Madawi Al-Rasheed: Gulf States Co-opt Women's Mobilization and Replace it with State Feminism

Dr. Madawi Al-Rasheed - Picture from Fria Tidningen

v  Maghrebi women proved they are not a homogeneous mass but are differentiated by class, education, and economic situation.
v  Saudi women have opted to bargain with the state because they were not able to unionize.
v  Arab uprisings led to breaking the taboo of women in the public sphere, demonstrating and asking for rights.
v  The Saudi regime wants us to believe that we only have a problem of women.
v  I cannot accept that because I am a woman I am only allowed to talk about women's issues.
v  Saudi youth need to learn lessons from Tunisian youth about how to seek rights by action.
Bil3afya: After the Arab Spring, how do you place women struggles in the Gulf and Maghreb regions?
Madawi Al-Rasheed: The Arab uprisings brought about the well-known struggles of women in both the Gulf and the Maghreb that was fermenting in the twentieth century. In the Maghreb, women were part of national struggles for liberation throughout the anti-colonial struggles but failed to gain rights after decolonization with the exception of some measures under the discourse of modernization and nationalism. They were disappointed with the patronage of male national elites and felt betrayed by the state feminism that dominated the policies of many Maghreb governments. They participated in the recent uprisings throughout North Africa from Cairo to Rabat, moving beyond slogans that touch them as women to national politics, and demonstrating the limits of state feminism under dictatorships. They proved that they are not a homogenous mass but differentiated by class, education and economic situation. They showed diversity in solutions they sought to improve the conditions of the entire nation rather than simply one section of society. They were Islamists, liberals and ideologically non-committed individuals who simply wanted freedom, dignity and justice. After the success of the revolts, they reverted back to their niches as activists grounded in one position, which threatens to divide not only the cause of emancipation but also the nation itself. I hope the opening of the political systems allows women of all political persuasions to voice their dissent without the threat of arrest or even death.

January 23, 2013

In Morocco: Victims of Rape, Authoritarianism, Patriarchy, Class, and Power

Amina Filali
Amina Filali
This is a sad recurring theme in the Moroccan This is a sad recurring theme in the Moroccan news cycle. How much commentary can one voice without slipping into redundancy? I recently translated the video testimony given byNasma Naqash, a young Moroccan domestic laborer who threw herself from the rooftop of an apartment building after suffering rape, rejection from her family, and depression. Just less than a year ago, the tragic suicide of Amina Filali, a minor who was raped and forced into a marriage with her rapist, rocked headlines in Morocco and mobilized people across political, regional, and economic lines, collectively calling for justice and the removal of the disgusting article 475.
I have to keep checking myself because it seems I’ve repeated these lines over and over again. I’ve read them over and over again. I hear them over and over again. And yet, injustice dominates. Just last week, it was reported that Hassan Arif, Moroccan parliament member, joyously paraded his “innocence” after he was acquitted of rape charges. And on the other side of the court bench, his victim, Malika Slimani, was faced with charges after refusing to entertain what she rightfully described as the lack of integrity of the case.

January 21, 2013

It is Time for Gulf Colonialism

During a period when European colonialism was met with armed resistance, Algerian-born French writer Albert Camus’ suggestion that an Arab colonialism replace the French one was controversial. From a different angle, the idea of replacing one system with another is now legitimate after the Arab Spring. The differences in the comparison are considerable, but the point is the same: revolting nations are not interested in exchanging their dictators for Gulf-funded governments the way colonialism was replaced with authoritarian states.
In a past post, I spoke of the new Qatar being a mysterious country funding political Islam in the region after the Arab Spring. Several readers were bothered by the questions asked, but did not note that the whole idea of the post was to raise questions about a closed country turning revolutions into political and economic investments, its tools being a media network, an ambiguous foreign policy, and huge projects that seem too massive and unnecessary.
Qatar’s role has been underestimated, but now, its dominance is a reality that can no longer be ignored.
For decades, the Wahabi project in Saudi Arabia has been the subject of academic focus. The role of the kingdom is evident in funding Islamist movements and supporting regimes that do not clash with their interests. The Palestinian Authority, the Bahraini regime, and Yemen’s former president Saleh are a few of the many benefactors of the Saudi project.

January 14, 2013

Dialogue Over Stereotypes - Sultan Al-Qassemi

[Dialogue Over Stereotypes is an ongoing series intended to highlight the realities and issues faced by women in the Maghreb and the Gulf. The series seeks to break down stereotypes shaped by misperceptions of women from these two regions by engaging locals. For comments or suggestions, email bil3afya@gmail.com]

Bil3afya: There are the common stereotypes and perceptions of Maghrebi women, specifically Moroccan women, in the region. In what ways are these views present in the UAE?

Sultan Al-Qassemi: Unfortunately the perception of Moroccan women in the Gulf veers towards the negative. This is largely to stereotyping and ignorance on the part of the Gulf Arabs who have fell into the same racism trap they accuse others of having.

Some in Morocco perpetuate this negative perception as well. Last year the actress Bouchra Ijork caused a firestorm when she stated that Moroccan women in the Gulf are ambassadors of “humiliation and debasement” and that “there aren’t any doctors and engineers amongst them”. Immediately scores of successful expatriate Moroccan women living in the Gulf issued a joint statement denouncing her comments.  

Many UAE ruling family members are said to have taken Moroccan wives, but I am not sure if that has perpetuated the stereotype or soothed it.

Bil3afya: Can you discuss the use of these perceptions as tools in the general political discourse, especially with regard to Islamist party members?

Sultan Al-Qassemi: There are no official Islamist parties in the Gulf save for Islamist blocs in Bahrain and Kuwait.