The recent protests in several Arab countries have aroused great hope among women. These mass protests were considered at the time the beginning of an awareness, with the final goal being the attainment of a change. These results had been preceded by a phase of several secular and anti-religion movements that widely expressed in the virtual world, a desire for major reforms. The ultimate goal of the laity was the establishment of a democracy founded on the principles of individual rights, so as to finally be able to express oneself freely. Women were very present in all these secular movements long before and during the launching of the Arab Spring. Logically, they hoped to establish a state of equality between women and men in order to finish with any type of discrimination.
Contrary to all these expectations, the Arab Spring has generated the rise of a radical Islam based on some violent verses in the Koran, literal verses where women suffer from a contempt, expressed by misogynous behavior and by treaties of jurisprudence against them. This “Spring” has none-the-less allowed for the overthrowing of a few Arab dictators. It is also evident that it has replaced them by another form of tyranny: religious dictates. With the return of a religious state, women were bound to be the first victims. Furthermore, their condition has deteriorated in several Arab Spring countries despite their active participation in denouncing authoritarianism and their attempt to break taboos.
Paradoxically, the status of women has regressed, following the many mass uprisings in the MENA region, that is, the Middle East and North Africa. In fact, in these countries, women have become the first target of violence, as much physical and social, as economic. Nevertheless, the assessment remains widely mixed and varied in the MENA region due to the situation and diversity in each country.
Take Syria: the situation of women varies according to which social, religious or ethnic group they belong to. Syrian society is a heterogenious society where Common Law is different from one community to the other. In Syria, four codes exist which concern the Catholic, Orthodox, Druze, and Sunnite comminities. For the Sunnites, the code draws its inspiration from the Muslim Charia. The Syrian Constitution affirms secularity and feedom of worship but to the contrary, it stipulates in Article 3 that the President of the Republic must be Muslim. Moreover, although this Constitution guarantees equality between men and women in the work place (meaning equal pay, encouraging autonomy in Syrian women), it nevertheless contains discriminatory articles against women, with a penal code that gives, for example, a legal foundation for “crimes of honor”. The result: Since the 2011 (two thousand eleven) revolt, women have become victims of rape by men of the regime or by the rebels. And the situation has gotten worse, especially in the zones controlled by the Islamist rebellion. The stoning of several women accused of adultery by djihadists of the Islamic State imposes on women to stay confined to their homes.
We must remember again that the other Islamist rebels stand for a strict, rigid interpretation of Islam and are seeking to impose their retrograded ideas which impede the fulfillment of women.
A little glimmer of hope is to be noted in Syria. It concerns the improvement of the condition of women in Syria’s Kurdish zone, with the establishment of a secular and egalitarian model between women and men. The self-administrated Kurds in Syria have put a system into place that eliminates all forms of discrimination with regard to women, by establishing equality between the two sexes not only in the legal sphere, but in society as well. For example, Kurdish Syrian women in this zone occupy forty percent of the local councils, and women fighters are in the front lines against a primitive and barbaric enemy.
In conclusion, it is obvious that women in religious societies based on the internalization of numerous taboos, are deprived of a large part of their emancipation. In fact, the culture of Arab-Muslim societies is based on the enslavement of the individual where the woman is the first victim.
The islamisation of these societies and the taking control of certain countries by Islamists, have made women the principle losers. They suffer from a masculine injustice based on the Koran which gives men pre-eminence over women, whether it be under the law or in matters of inheritance.
In the twenty first century, the status of the Arab-Muslim woman has degraded to the point of reducing her to the sole purpose of procreation. This comes with enormous frustration because the same Muslim woman, through information and the social networks, could easily make a difference with more emancipated models. We better understand the feelings of revolt that are stirred up.
Syrian women have a great chance. They can join the minorities which make up thirty five percent of the population and who are in favor of secularity, this being the only way to guarantee a Common Law inspired by or founded on the principle of equality and parity between women and men.
Facing the Islamic barbarity of the Islamic State, Muslim women have nothing to lose. They must have a critical mind. They must examine their own belief system. They have to question their own belief in a rigid and literal Islam. In this fight, it’s time they find, with willing men, the road toward secularity.