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An Arab Spring For Women

The ???Arab Spring??? has received copious attention in the American media, but one of its crucial elements has been largely overlooked: the striking role of women in the protests sweeping the Arab world. Despite inadequate media coverage of their role, women have been and often remain at the forefront of those protests.As a start, women had a significant place in the Tunisian demonstrations that kicked off the Arab Spring, often marching up Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, the capital, with their husbands and children in tow. Then, the spark for the Egyptian uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak out of office was a January 25th demonstration in Cairo???s Tahrir Square called by an impassioned young woman via a video posted on Facebook. In Yemen, columns of veiled women have come out in Sanaa and Taiz to force that country???s autocrat from office, while in Syria, facing armed secret police, women have blockaded roads to demonstrate for the release of their husbands and sons from prison.But with such bold gestures go fears. As women look to the future, they worry that on the road to new, democratic parliamentary regimes, their rights will be discarded in favour of male constituencies, whether patriarchal liberals or Muslim fundamentalists. The collective memory of how women were in the forefront of the Algerian revolution for independence from France from 1954 to 1962, only to be relegated to the margins of politics thereafter, still weighs heavily.Historians will undoubtedly debate the causes of the Arab Spring for decades. Among them certainly are high rates of unemployment for the educated classes, neo-liberal policies of privatisation and union-busting,corruption in high places, soaring food and energy prices, economic hardship caused by the shrinking of employment opportunities in the Gulf oil states and Europe (thanks to the 2008 global financial meltdown), and decades of frustration with petty, authoritarian styles of governing. In their roles as workers and



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