Posts tagged Politics
We need your help in building our platform for Take Back Parliament. We have compiled a long list of issues to draft positions on (see below). I am sure it is incomplete (a) and I need your expertise in different issues to draft one-page positions on them (b).
So if you’ve worked on one of these before and you can help out with resources, please do. If you can draft the one-pager for us, please do as well. Here I have uploaded a word document that is a draft of our women’s rights position. You can use the same format: stating the problem and stating the changes you want in bullet form.
I know you are probably thinking: gosh, there is too much to change, but let’s try condensing things into different papers and tangible demands. You don’t have to write a thesis, just 1-2 pages will do fine. We will have time to elaborate on our positions later on. Our deadline for these papers is end of October, after which we will post them for the public’s review and feedback.
Message me if you want to talk more and thank you very much!
Green and Public Spaces
Reclaiming of Public Property
Efficient Urban Planning
Preservation of Lebanese Heritage
Investment in Culture and Art
School Educational Reform
Lebanese University Reform
Internet Freedom and Access
New and Alternative Media
Freedom of Speech
A Smaller Parliament and Reduction of MP Salaries
A Civil Personal Status Law
Cancellation of Confessional Quotas in Public Positions
Affordable and efficient public transportation
Efficient Electricity Access
Efficient Water Access
Progressive Healthcare for All
A National Foreign and Defense Policy
Complete End to Arbitrary Detention and Torture
Rights of People with Disabilities
Sexual and Bodily Rights
Accountability and Memory of the Civil War
Support for Entrepreneurship
Sustainable Development of Agriculture
Sustainable Development of Industry
Reforming the Rent Law
Recycling and Zero Waste
For years now, the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform has been lobbying for proportional elections, a 30% women’s quota, lowering the voting age to 18, allowing diaspora voting in Lebanese embassies, and a list of other reforms. With time ticking for the 2013 elections scheduled for next May (although many speculate it will be postponed depending on the uprising in Syria), the Lebanese government met today and passed a proposed law to Parliament, which includes proportional representation based on a Lebanon of 13 districts. Since nothing in Lebanon is decided outside of the March 8 / 14 deadlock, it is clear that the current March 8 government would push for proportional representation not because it is more fair but because it would benefit the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, and other members of the coalition who had greater numbers of votes in the 2009 elections. Zako has a full study of 2009 election results on a proportional scheme here. Odds are that the March 14 bloc will turn down the proposal in Parliament and the country will go to another majority representation in the 2013 elections.
Women’s Political Participation
But now we look at the issue of women’s quota, which was discussed as part of the proposal in government today. I haven’t cared for gender quotas much in Lebanon since we all know the same MP seats are going to be filled with the same corrupt sectarian politicians – men or women. We used to focus our discussions at Nasawiya on the question of: do we want women in Parliament just for representation, so girls can have role models? Or do we not care about women as long as they replicate the same sectarian models? Given that this is a false dilemma, many of us opted for wanting strong, feminist, secularist women in Parliament who can hopefully be elected in a non-confessional system. Of course, this was all theory for me until I actually started meeting women MPs and working on the Take Back Parliament campaign. It was then that I realized that there is really no women’s engagement in politics in Lebanon. None. The issue is not about female MPs or ministers alone – the issue is that there weren’t any women I could name that were political analysts, heads of news desks, editors of political pages in newspapers, bloggers, journalists, anything. Since the days of the civil war in the 70s, women were completely alienated from Lebanese politics – much to their credit, some would say, for who would want to be associated with such a bloody war – and have not been able to get back into the arena since the 90s. And if women are not at the table, you can be sure that their issues are not at the agenda.
This is a structural issue – one that will take years to fix – and the solutions must come at many levels. Electoral quotas are one of these solutions, temporary of course, that could get more women into the political sphere. There is no guarantee that women’s issues will then make it into political agendas (we cite Gilberte Zouein’s shameful stance on family violence as an example). But, frankly, no women on the table at all is an absolute guarantee that women’s issues won’t be on the agenda. So whether or not you agree to a quota, take a look at the disgusting way in which the issue was discussed in government to give you an understanding of just how isolated women are from politics and how shamefully their demand for political representation is treated.
The Discussion on Women’s Quota
In 2011, Cabinet chose zero women ministers and here was Michel Aoun’s chauvinistic reply to why. Basically he said women lack the experience for public service. All women, apparently. His same government now treated women’s quota in the following way.
Firstly, the discussion of percentage happened in the most random of ways, with one minister suggesting 5-7%, another minister upping him to 15-17%, and the majority agreeing that they must take the average of 10%. As if they were discussing what to order for lunch. It shows you just how little concern they pay to the issue of no women in politics as a fundamentally unimportant crisis. Nobody seems to notice that half of the country is not concerned with the way the country is run. Perhaps they know this is to their advantage as sectarian war lords.
And then, during the discussion, MP Nicolas Fattoush (Zahle, March 14) dares to utter the most hypocritical argument against women’s quota by referring to Article 7 of the Lebanese Constitution that states that all Lebanese are equal before the law. Mon Dieu. The nerve of this guy. All Lebanese are equal before the law? Where the hell was that argument when women demanded equal citizenship rights or equal marital laws or equal labor laws or equal anything?
WTF. There is no equality before the law, Mr. Fattoush, we live as gendered citizens – the structures of patriarchy and misogyny (perpetuated by our very government) prevent women from access to protection and to equal treatment everywhere from the home to public spaces to police stations to courts of law. This is a perfect example of empty concepts of equality at the disposal and service of those in power.
When asked about women’s quota, Michel Aoun, the same guy who said women lack experience in the political sphere insulted the question with: “Lebanese culture is misogynistic and doesn’t want to see women in positions of power. You, as women, must create strong women’s movements to impose your opinion. You must refuse all gifts! I personally refuse to give you this gift, you must go out and fight for it!”
WTF again. Ya3ni, I don’t know what to say to that, Mr. Aoun. You think supporting women’s political participation is a gift that women should fight for? And you, a man on top of that pyramid of power won’t do anything to support it, like say, I dunno, instate a women’s quota? The women’s movement has been banging its head against the FPM-majority committee for the protection of women from family violence — these are the same MPs who have claimed that gender-based violence is being handled fine by religious courts and that the state shouldn’t interfere when in fact, at least one woman is dying every month as a direct result of family violence. How hypocritical these statements are and how insulting to all women in Lebanon and all women’s movements.
No Country for Women
The misogyny of these politicians has to be brought to a stop. Every phrase they utter about women is insulting. I hear stories about this every day – even from women MPs and journalists. The other day at the Family Violence press conference, Samir el Jisr had the nerve to tell a woman journalist that she didn’t understand what rape was. He then went on to give her the legal definition of rape. This is the epitome of insult. A man telling a woman what rape is. This corrupt political landscape needs to change on so many levels and one of these is to get large percentages of women from the women’s movement into Parliament, Government, and municipalities. The final format of the proposed law seems to have included a gender quota of “at least one person from every gender in the nomination lists.” That means there must be one woman nominee in every list (the proportional system mandates closed election lists). What a wonderful gift, Lebanon. I’m sure women feel more motivated to work hard for their basic human rights now.
I have a proposal for you as a follow up to this post I wrote 2 months ago about taking back the Lebanese Parliament. I have been trying to find traction and excitement for this project but I can’t manage to convince people around me. Everyone says nobody will be on board and that it’s a failed idea. So I decided to put it online and ask for your feedback (whoever you are). Let me know how you feel about it. Be honest cos I might be wrong. But I can’t help thinking that if we can find a few hundred people who can believe in this, perhaps we can achieve the impossible.
It is clear that we, the people, need to take back Parliament from the claws of the zo3ama, millionaires, and warlords. It is clear that all political parties in Lebanon are too sectarian and corrupt to change anything. We are stuck. We can dream of a revolution in the streets. Or we can dream of a revolution at the voting ballots.
The Lebanese Parliament should not exist so that the rich feudal lords can become richer and enforce their control over people. It exists to legislate laws that protect the people, ensure equality, and develop our economy and culture. Clearly, it has been doing none of that for decades now.
We must take it back.
Despite the corruption and inefficiency of the electoral system, we can still create a third option. Despite the sectarian division of the districts and the confessional quota of the seats, we can still run with an agenda to change this. Let’s elect new, qualified, inspiring people to Parliament. Let’s create a national coalition of top-notch candidates who support a platform of secularism, civil laws and socio-economic justice. Let’s vote for independent candidates who have fresh new ideas and commitments. Let’s support the new talents who usually have no chance: the women, the youth, the workers, the ones who have never had a relative in Parliament. Let’s hold our representatives accountable. Let’s revolutionize the system. Let’s run a low-budget, eco-friendly, grassroots campaign that will astonish generations. A coalition where everyone has a critical voice – and nobody is a blind follower. Let’s remember forever that summer we took back Parliament – against all odds, when nobody believed it was possible.
Makes you a little nervous, doesn’t it? Could it really happen? No. Surely, it is impossible. Or is it? Maybe? If we work hard enough? No… what is this naïve unrealistic dream, I obviously don’t know shit about politics. But wait. Can we gather enough heart and intelligence to face the billions of dollars in bribes? Can we break that barrier of fear and intimidation? Can we make our people believe in their power again?
I’m just like you – uncertain. But the mere thought of engaging in a real battle for Parliament in 2013 (instead of getting depressed) makes my heart dance. So I decided to put up this post and ask my fellow Lebanese: are we ready? What do you think? Can we find a few hundred Lebanese who can commit to a new 2013 elections campaign?
To you, the answer.
P.S. I will not publish your info online anywhere ever. But I will email you to have coffee.
Guest Post by Jad Baaklini
On July 1, an independent group of anti-sectarian activists organizing within the Matn region convened a discussion of Christian thought and Secularism by University of Balamand lecturer and cleric Joseph Massouh. ‘3ala Matn el 3elmaniye/On Board Secularism’, which I am a member of, organized this event to address a problem it faced while agitating against the sectarian system in the past few months, as part of the Isqat al Nizam movement; given the demographic make-up of our region, most people we spoke to understood our cause as a cipher for a majoritarian coup aimed at further marginalizing the Christians at best, or a project of outright ‘Islamification’ at worst.
We felt we needed to approach our community from a perspective different from the usual left-leaning narrative; while our region has had a long history of progressive-nationalist political activity, we wanted to engage with those who do not share these points of reference, and take their concerns seriously. It was important for us to communicate how the secular state that we call for is not something to fear nor at odds with their culture and upbringing.
On the contrary, during his talk Massouh went as far as saying that even when basing himself purely on Christian values and points of reference, the case for secularism is very strong; “as a cleric, it is my religious duty to protest against the sectarian system and not just my national one,” he insisted.
Massouh began his cogent and engaging argument by highlighting the roots of secular thought in Europe, saying that Christianity, when understood as a social phenomenon and not as the teachings of Christ himself, has had a “black history” full of war. In his opinion, secularism in Europe freed both citizens and religious authorities alike by allowing priests to focus on their proper role as interpreters of spiritual matters instead of dictating people’s lives.
He then went on to outline the history of anti-sectarian thought within the Libano-Syrian Christian community, recalling Boutrous Boustani’s ridicule of the system around 150 years ago in the journal Nafeer Sourya in which he called sectarianism “backwardness” and “barbarism”.
“The system always generates war and yet we still say that ours is a pluralist system, a ‘message’,” Massouh continued. “Incidentally, John Paul II’s statement about Lebanon was mistranslated; he didn’t say we are ‘greater than a nation’ (akbar min watan), he said we are ‘more than a nation’ (aktar min watan), and he’s right; we’re more than one nation.” He went on to say that this ‘message’ must be understood as in need of constant ‘re-writing’ (i3adat siyagh) in order to build a unifying civic and national identity.
Massouh then explained how the “Greater Lebanon” period established the current confessionalist balance: “We Christians were the majority and we had power, but failed to build a state. We never had a ‘man of state’ (rajul dawle),” he insisted. “If we did, he would have left us something of a state. No, they were all concerned with benefiting from it.”
Massouh asked Christians to stop thinking in terms of numbers, an idea echoed later by an audience member who put it best saying: “stop counting!” Massouh stressed on the fact that population size is no guarantee of anything, adding provocatively that within the current system, we cannot expect non-Christian sects to be charities; “they are not Caritas.” Christians looking for protection and existential guarantees can only expect to find it under secularism, he concluded.
So how does Massouh understand this system? He differentiated between laïcité and sécularisme, with the latter holding a (materialist) position with respect to religion itself, while the former aiming only to drive a wedge between secular (i.e. non-clerical) affairs of the state and the spiritual affairs of religious authorities. Hence, Massouh advocated laïcié and not anti-religious secularism, but also insisted that people have a right to non-belief. “Just because my father is Orthodox doesn’t mean I should remain one; why should a priest rule over me [in marital affairs] just because I was born that way?”
“People have a right to leave their sect; we [clerics] would be acting in bad faith (nifaq) if we did not allow them to leave,” he insisted.
Secularism according to Massouh would confer full citizenship to people: “If I were born a Sunni in Koura, where the only parliamentary seats are for Orthodox people, I would not be a full citizen; I would be living in dhimmitude.”
“Women are not allowed to confer citizenship to their children if their father is non-Lebanese,” he continued. “The fear is that they may marry Palestinians… Can’t a woman fall in love with a Palestinian? Jesus was a Palestinian!”
Massouh criticized Islamic institutions that do not accept laws that protect women from domestic violence, for example, but he also criticized Christians who say that they will accept such civil laws when Muslims accept them. He urged people to support these measures based on their principles, saying that “waiting is not part of Christian belief; we work on bringing God’s Kingdom in the here and now”.
Wrapping up his talk, Massouh warned that the current system did not help Christians, asking those of the faith in the room to remember the secularist tradition of their great grandparents, adding: “clerics who defend the sectarian system speak against Christ.”
While some in the audience asked questions indicating that they were still not convinced about secularism itself or the current Isqat al Nizam movement, the feedback overall was very positive. One audience member told me later that not only was Massouh’s case for secularism made very well (“he is more engaging than Gregoire Haddad even!”), basics of Christianity became much clearer to him for the first time.
3ala Matn el 3elmaniye/On Board Secularism hopes to organize more events in line with our belief in community-based, regionally-aware activism, and offers this discussion as a model for others working within areas that may not be immediately hospitable to secularism to emulate and develop.
We were on a mission this weekend to raise global twitter awareness about the Freedom Flotilla heading towards Gaza with tons of aid supplies. The organizers were doing an amazing job with social media, tweeting live from the boats, video live streaming, as well as Google-mapping their locations in the sea on the hour. We wanted to amplify those efforts.
Before the Attack
We tweeted and tweeted and #flotilla did not trend, although it was technically ahead of many trending topics over 24 hours. Even the Jerusalem Post recognized the phenomenal effort we put. I flipped through the TV channels and found no news covering the topic, except for occasional updates from Al Jazeera. By 5am Beirut time, over 13,000 viewers had been watching the live stream continuously for hours. The flotilla had been surrounded by Israeli warships and air force. Nobody reported about it. I stupidly thought there was no way Israel would attack the activists, who all appeared in positive, high spirits on the live stream. One young woman, an Arab American laughed and said to the camera she apologizes to her family for not telling them she was going to Gaza again. She was really cool. Max, I thought, the Israeli warships would block the flotilla near Gaza and escort them to the tents they had prepared in Ashdod. How else does one deal with a peaceful, non-violent protest?
And so, I went to sleep, waiting to hear the news of the flotilla in the morning. I woke up to the horror that 16 activists had been killed and that the flotilla had been captured by the Israeli military. I was shocked and speechless for a good hour. #Flotilla had risen to over 0.7% on twitter but still wasn’t trending. It is undoubtedly a case of censorship. I challenge anyone to tell me it wasn’t. I saved all the graphs. @ShantDotMe suggested that we try and trend another term since twitter must have blocked #Flotilla. I figured they also had the excuse of flotilla being a common noun, so I suggested we go for #FreedomFlotilla. An hour later, both “Gaza Flotilla” and #FreedomFlotilla were trending and have been for the past couple of hours.
We did not mean for #Flotilla to trend because of a massacre. No, that was not our purpose at all. We wanted #Flotilla to trend while the boats were on their way towards Gaza so that the world could follow what was happening.
The Wrong Kind of Trending
But all of that doesn’t matter. We did not mean for #Flotilla to trend because of a massacre. No, that was not our purpose at all. We wanted #Flotilla to trend while the boats were on their way towards Gaza so that the world could follow what was happening. We wanted the world to follow the facts, to meet the faces on board the boats, to see the situation unfold in front of their eyes. The Zionist propaganda machine is extremely powerful and it was on full speed last night with arguments like: people on the flotilla are armed, they are on their way to murder thousands of Israelis, they are smuggling guns to give to Hamas, all bullshit accusations. The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was an international group of over 700 people from 40 different countries, carrying thousands of tons of aid to the Palestinians who have been under siege for over 1080 days. Do you think they would be brave enough to sail to Gaza, knowing the threat they were under, if their purpose was to smuggle arms? Of course the point was not only to deliver the aid; they were on a political action to break the siege. Their action was brave and courageous and pacifist and non-violent. The world continues to be silent about the siege. Gazans continue to suffer. And so the activists wanted to wake the world up by sailing straight to Gaza through international waters.
And so, what is Israel to do in the face of non-violent protest? First, of course, Israel tries to play the innocent helpful role: give us the aid, we will deliver it ourselves, knowing the organizers would not agree because this is not an isolated incident of sending aid to Gaza. This is a political message to break the siege. Second, of course, Israel tries to delegitimize the non-violence, accusing the activists of “provoking” the Israeli warships. But who provoked who really? Israel taunted the activists, circling them by sea and sky, in international waters, signaling and threatening to take action. The flotilla boats then huddled close together and diverted their course a little in order to avoid the clash with the Israeli warships, and their spirits remained high. The Zionist taunting did not work. Israel weighs out the options:
- Attack the flotilla, kill a few people, scare everyone from ever attempting such actions again, take a tiny bit of criticism, remain protected by impunity, whitewash the crime with excuses of self-defense, and come out of it unscathed; or
- allow the activists to reach Gaza, break the siege, deliver some aid, and give hope to thousands of other activists that non-violent marches (or sails) actually work?
The choice is obvious. The Israelis thus act ruthlessly – even in the face of such non-violence – to scare the hell out of these activists and any others. Their message is clear: you cannot resist Zionism, not even non-violently. They will shut down every glimpse of it lest it grow too powerful. And no, my dear Arab leaders, you are not getting off the hook so easily. All of you are racing now to denounce the attacks on the flotilla. Where were you a few days ago when the mission needed your support? Where are all the other boat and ships from all the other countries to join the flotilla? Astankir, nastankir.. shut the fuck up!
So. Israel knew exactly what to do. The question now is: what are we to do? Our choice is just as obvious.
After months of incessant publicity (all of which started through social media and then moved into press coverage), the Lebanese Laique Pride, a march for secularism, finally took place this morning with thousands of people participating! Numbers are estimated at two to three thousand, but I am very sure that at least 5,000 people started the march. At one point, they filled up the width of the road from on top of the Expo Beirut tunnel all the way down and around the Phoenicia hotel. Everyone came together for a very simple, yet daring and bold, initiative by 5 friends: Nasri Sayegh, Yalda Younes, Said Chaitou, Alexandre Paulikevitch, and Kinda Hassan. Often, the best organizing for social change starts with an idea that a small group of friends have.
Many news agencies have reported that a maximum of 2,000 participants marched in today’s event, although many of us are sure we had way more than 2,000. Here is a photo by @funkyozzi that shows only a part of the march – clearly in the thousands.
A Unified Stand Against Sectarianism
The march was not longer than a couple of kilometers – starting on the Corniche of Ain El Mraisse all the way up to Masaref Street of Downtown Beirut. Secularist organizations, student groups, women’s organizations (including the awesome Nasawiya), and a majority of unaffiliated citizens marched together with slogans, chants, drumbeats, whistles, led by a truck with blasting music and secularist slogans:
- “Ta2 Ta2 Ta2ifiyyi.. La2 La2 3ilmaniyyi..” (Sec Sec Sectarianism.. No, No, Secularism)
- “Shou tayiftak? Ma khassak!” (What’s your religion/sect? It’s none of your business!)
- “Al-3ilmaniyyi hiyyil 7al” (Secularism is the solution)
In a country so deeply divided along sectarian lines (in the personal status laws, in every aspect of the government, in people’s mindsets) which are manifested in civil wars and conflicts all the time, this march was totally awesome. Who would have thought so many people of all shapes and sizes would show up in such large numbers to support the idea of an anti-sectarian state in Lebanon? I had attended some of the organizational meetings of the event, where many people kept asking: what’s next? How is this going to help? What is it going to achieve? What is your political demand? How are we going to solve the issues posed by sectarianism, which seem like a total political deadlock? Etc. I personally think the organizers played it smart by saying that they weren’t trying to solve the entire sectarian crisis in Lebanon. They were, however, trying to bring people who believe in or work on secularism in Lebanon together on one day, for one march, to show first and foremost that there are many of us. The thousands who actually showed up stand for tens of thousands who were sitting at home. We also showed that we can put our differences in strategy and ideology aside for one day to come together and show solidarity for our cause. What happens afterward? We keep on fighting our battles, debating this system we live in, and maybe, perhaps, who knows, some of us might have been so inspired by the feeling and ambiance today that we step it up a notch in terms of working together and raising a stronger unified voice against the many ugly faces of sectarianism in Lebanon.
Also, I want to give a big shout out to citizen journalism, which is alive and kicking in Beirut! It seemed like every other person had a photo or video camera, and I recognized many bloggers and tweeps taking part and snapping pictures. Of course there was the genius banner: “Sectarian #Epic #Fail” which only a handful of people understood but adored The number of participants on the ground was also a big boost to all of us slactivists who use Facebook and social media as our major tool of organizing. They are becoming more effective tools every day.
Things I liked most: We didn’t have any sectarian infiltrators, though that probably means nobody was taking us seriously =) A woman led the march. There were lots of baby strollers and dogs! Everybody seemed really happy. I got to carry my “3omro ma yirja3 al-tawezon il ta2ifi” (To Hell with sectarian balance) for the second time. Things I didn’t like: singing the friggin national anthem when we got close to Parliament. #Boo. I can’t stand national anthems. There was no mention of Palestinians and a lot of mention of “Lebanese” “Lebanesedom” “Lebanese-ness” which also makes me feel nauseous.
But yeah, awesome march all in all =) Here’s a pic of my favorite people at the march: the feminists and the tweeps (and me, the feminist tweep).
And I had to include this photo of the secularist doggie!
The Shorty Awards finale is here! We’ve got until 7pm (Beirut time) on Friday, February 5 to vote for Ali Abunimah al molakkab bi @avinunu on twitter. I don’t need to go into the details of why this is important, but to recap: it raises awareness, it fights back the slander (and since last week Ali has been getting TONS of online slander by zionist propagandists), it brings activists for Palestine together, it gives us hope that small actions on our part can fight the seemingly all-powerful zionist machine. And all it takes is really a couple of minutes.
Ali is leading now by a small margin of votes but his opponent (who has 55,000 followers!) is always making comebacks. So even if we’re leading, keep on voting! Here are some of the basics:
- To vote, tweet this: “I vote for @avinunu for a Shorty Award in #politics because…” and put a reason after “because..” or else it won’t count. Also, your reason must be unique & real. Don’t put anything hateful towards the opponent or anything silly. Lost for a reason? Google Ali. You can also do this at the voting page.
- If you voted during the nomination phase, you don’t need to vote again – you will still only count once. You can, however, re-vote to updated your reason if you feel your reason wasn’t that good. They take the last votes.
- Now is the time to RECRUIT actively to get others to vote too. Shorty Awards are monitored by real people, so they will check the accounts voting. If an account was just created, it is disqualified or if it never tweets, it is disqualified too. So take a few minutes please to recruit friends and supporters of Palestine to vote for Ali (and to recruit others in turn). You can do this by tweeting something like “Please encourage your friends to vote for @avinunu in Shorty Awards. We need 100s more people to win!” or DM-ing them (don’t spam). Or you can go back to traditional methods and call them, email them, or tell to vote when you bump into them in a cafe.
- Use other channels like Facebook and blogs to tell people about this campaign.
- Monitor the results live! It’s really exciting
Nayla Mouawad & Solange Gemayel. I don’t know what to comment, whether to laugh of to cry, but this video is a fine example of why it is more important to have feminists in parliament than it is to have women. But I want to still say that we need women to be represented – but not this bad a representation!
I’m currently at a conference in Cairo entitled “Collective Work on Women’s Rights” organized by GTZ and NWRO. There’s around 120 participants here – mostly Egyptian – from women’s rights organizations. Check out their cool conference graphic on the rights. I’m here representing AWID <3 and will be speaking tomorrow afternoon about youth networks.
The first panel included what I call “mandatory speeches” & of course wasn’t very interesting. Ms. Seham Negm delivered a message from Dr. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women.
The second panel, however, was extremely interesting every single minute of its 2 hours. It started off with a paper by Dr. Margot Badran on a historical perspective of women’s rights networks. Interesting things she said included:
An Egyptian Feminist Union was formed in 1923 and was the first to use the term “feminism.” It used both religious and secular nationalist (later human rights) strategies at the same time. 75 years ago, the Pan-Arab Feminist Union was formed across Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. The Arab women’s movement was also the first to take advantage of the printing press to express what later became known as a ‘feminist consciousness.’ Throughout the 20th century, women gained progress in education and work rights, but still today press for political rights. When Egyptian women gained the rights to vote in 1956, it was after 32 years of hard work by the women’s movement. But we know that this was only for the benefit of the state, which shut down the Egyptian Feminist Union in the same year. We have learned that women are protected in exchange for obedience. We have also learned that strategies women activists use haven’t really changed much. What changes more is the political situation and we must know how to adapt strategically to these changes.
I will be posting more of the first panel later. Now I need to pay attention to a really cool presentation on practicalities of network-building.
Tomorrow, Lebanon votes. Big deal. There is nothing about this year’s elections that excites me – not even remotely. I don’t care if the handful of women who are running win. I am sure we will have less women in parliament than we had yesterday. I keep reading about this elections being the most expensive in the world per capita. What a waste of money. What a waste of paper. What a waste of our past 3 months. What a waste of discourse. I wonder what they are thinking, the millions of people who are excited about voting tomorrow.
And so I tried to think: what is it exactly, this change that we seek? How does it translate into achievements, into practicality, into words? What would make me happy? Is it a new law that passes? Those poor lobbyists for the nationality campaign. It’s been over 6 years of them screaming and shouting, and once again they ride the coaster of empty promises. The domestic violence bill? We got excited about it for exactly 2 hours when we heard it was listed on the agenda of the Ministers’ meeting. And then it got bumped, just like that. Countless days of hard work gets thrown into the recycle bin by a mere few words from some guy.
I can’t remember, tonight, what change looks like. We are seeking no change tonight. The most hopeful of us can only wish that nobody dies of violence tomorrow.