Did you never noted in reading a News Paper that, most of the time, Women from Lebanon, Iran, Irak or Syria are often seen as victims ? We hear about immigration, sexual abuses, women submission, Prostitution Traffics, Forced Marriages, in brief, The drama stories of Women who’s trying to survive, isn’t it?
Since several centuries, Europe has created a picture of Arab Women full of stereotypes, nobody is unaware about them: They are not properly educated, They are submitted to the male’s power, they only care about the family, they are devoted to the religion’s rules, they don’t fight for their right and are not committed in any kind of feminist activism because of Male domination, they are always forced to marry someone(…) Should I carry on or it’s fine ? I am sick and tired of hearing people consider Arab Women as victims, dependent of men, under educated, I am French but for my ancestors I just want to carry the voices of those who fight for a better world, who don’t accept to be treated as a victim but as activists and actors of change.
Go back to the roots: The Feminism commitments and picture of the Arab world before the Arab revolution in 2011
Ô Night Ô My Eyes by Lamia Ziadé:
«I felt the need to share another picture of the Arab World from the one they show us everytime with terrorism, veiled women, wars..It was important for ME, for US, for the Middle East, to remember this world has existed…” Through this book Lamia paint the paths of 3 main characters, Asmahan a Syrian Diva, Fayrouz a famous Lebanese singer and Oum Kalthoum a Legend in the Egypt culture.
The story which inspired me the most is the one of Asmahan. Asmahan (Amal) is born in 1912 in a vessel on the run for Beyrouth in Palestine.in 1924, Her father Mohamed El atrach,a Syrian’s Prince, died and and her mother, a Palestinian’s princess musician, decided to move in Egypt to keep them safe and start to give singing lessons and go on stage.She passed to Amal and Farid (her brother) on this passion for music, few years later in the edge of 15yo she performed on stage with her own composition written by one of the most famous composer of Egypt. The reason of her success was her evangelic voice and melancholic songs inspired by the european music which touched the Arab’s audience. But apart from her singer career, her life has been a mess, she has been forced to marry a Syrian Prince, her cousin, because of his brother Fouad who signed the contract for her, putting her in jail. She had a baby, she divorced, achieving depression after depression to finally start a life as a Free-spirited woman, drinking and having passing lovers all the time. She was surrounded by enemies, whose the Egypt’s Queen who was jealous that everybody even his son love her,because of that her right to stay in the Egyptian’s land has been put in question. She spent her time to fight for be able to carry her career and be a good woman but she suffered in her childhood of the absence of her father and was scared to be attached. Despite her she has been put in conspiracies to become a spy for British from Egypt and later with French when the war began. She died at the edge of 32yo from a car crash in Strange circumstance. A prophecy from a psychic woman said: “You were born in the sea, you will die in the water as well”…but one thing is sure she became a LEGEND in Middle EAST, a kind of Marilyn Monroe from Arab world…
For French speakers, I advice you to read as well Feminine Commitments in the Middle East By Nora BENKORICH released in Social Mouvement, a review. Nora is a Research and Education Officer (ATER) at the Chair of Contemporary History of the Arab World at the College de France and a PhD student at EHESS under the direction of Hamit Bozarslan and Henry Laurens. It deals with the feminism commitment in Arab societies, which are complitely different from what we used to see, it shows committed women fight in a world which see them quiet and veiled.
The First European Theater with Arabic drama by Arabic playwriters: The Arabiska Teatern in Sweden
In order to enable immigrants people from Syria and Middle East to get opportunities in the area they are educated , they decided to create a Theater in 2015 with the purpose to targets a small audience: Arab speakers from Europe. A such challenge which has fostered the Arab culture’s development in Sweden,the education of a thousand of refugees, and probably marked the beginning of a new area where Arab culture is recognised.
Arab and feminist movies – Inty Mag
Who says feminism does not exist in the Arab world? Most of the time in the cinema industry Arab women are seen like victims or submitted OR they are not represented at all! BUT those film makers offer us a completely different vision:
The women of the 678 -Mohamed DIAB (2012) : Sexual Attacks in the Street was a kind of scourge in Egypt, that’s why 3 egyptian women decided to fight against that. This movie for me shows how those women suffered from the Men’s behavior and a society who used to remain blind face to the women’s pains and put everytime the guilty on Women and their casual attitude,which is completely senseless.
Caire’s Women-Yousri NASRALLAH (2009) : Through Hebba, a TV talk show host, Yousri deals with the women conditions in Egypt. It’s the story of a women who fight to keep her legitimacy in the Public sphere in trying to talk about the real life, far away from the mundane life. Also, it’s about the freedom of the press, which is not respected and instead divests journalists to express themselves, as everywhere I think…
Yarrow-Nouri BOUZID (2012): During the Jasmin revolution in Tunisia wich began in 17th December of 2010, Zaineb and Aisha, 2 girls completely opposed, meet up. The story is not only about the veiling but also the Women contribution in the revolution.One has been educated with the veiling and the other one without, but the society force them to follow the rules set out, especially in this revolution period for the Resignation of the Tunisian President and the end of a corrupted and unequal government. This movie has been an answer to this fight and a way to encourage women to demonstrate for their rights and does not accept to listen the religious moral’s lessons which promote the veiling as a security garantee, while they ask to be deveiled sometimes for their commercial interest.
The Doha Tribeca festival (DTFF): The Women’s place in the cinema industry (2009-2012)
Further to the Arab revolution, the need to express and denounce the political, economic,cultural and social situation of the Arab world pushed the artists to use festivals as a hope of Revival and Social changes, a place to deal with the socities issues. The firsts cinema festivals are born in Egypt and Tunisia, both has been affected the most by the Revolution:
The Carthage Film Days (1966) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthage_Film_Festival
The Cairo Festival (1976) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairo_International_Film_Festival
DTFF is born in 2012 in Qatar organized by Doha film institute and founded by Al-Mayassa. “She was declared the most influential person in art on Art Reviews‘s Power 100,and prominently appears on the Time 100, and Forbes’ The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” (Wikipédia) She is the President of Qatar museums authority and aims to make to the Qatar, an international centre for Culture, Art and education in her location and in the world.
This festival has enabled to discover such talented film makers, for example, Nadine Labaki: a famous palestinian film maker. Her talent has been officially recognised thanks to Caramel (2007) and And now where we go (2011) and launched at Cannes Festival in France. Those movies draw a portrait of the Lebanon society with the religion, the violence and the post colonialism with a touch of optimism.
Moufida Tatli is became The Tunisian’s Minister of culture and the first Arab woman who’s made a feature film in 1994 with The Silences of the palace: “When I was a child, explains Moufida Tlatli, the Tunisian woman was called “the colonized of the colonized”. It is while thinking of my mother (to whom the film is dedicated), and to the unspoken who ruled all his life, that I wrote this scenario. Patiently, meticulously, obstinately, the filmmaker reconstructs a ceremonial.What it calls into question is the silence which still today stifles the Tunisian woman.”
Annemarie Jacir is the first Palestinia woman who’s made a feature film with the salt of the sea (2008): The story of a Palestinian woman who has dreamt all her life to come back home but she realized that she has to take the things over control to reach her dream: be FREE.
“IF WOMEN ARE MADE TO FEEL THEIR POWER IN THE LONG RUN IT WILL HAVE AN IMPACT”