November 9, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 896

Following The Arab Spring – Facebook Campaign Titled 'The Uprising Of Women In The Arab World'

November 9, 2012 | By B. Chernitsky*
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 896


Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, four Arab women have launched a campaign titled "The Uprising of Women in the Arab World," aimed at gaining "freedom, independence and security" for Arab women. The campaign promotes gender equality in accordance with the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and calls to grant women freedom in the domains of expression, thought, schooling, employment, and the freedom to dress as they please, as well as political rights. The campaign's Facebook page[1] features the full text of the Human Rights Declaration in Arabic, and there is also an official Twitter account.[2]

The campaign's logo (the woman's hair is a map of the Arab world)[3]

The campaign, which was launched online on October 1, 2012, has so far received the support of over 55,000 men and women from around the world, including prominent women activists such as 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman; Egyptian physician and writer Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'adawi; Samira Ibrahim, an Egyptian activist who exposed the virginity checks performed by an Egyptian military doctor on female protestors during the revolution; Saudi women's rights activist Manal Al-Sharif; and Tunisian actress Hend Sabry.

At the suggestion of the campaign organizers, supporters have uploaded images of themselves holding up signs explaining why they back the campaign (see below). The supporters express protest over the patriarchal character of Arab society and the attitudes that objectify women and regard them as servants of their husbands and families; over the oppression of women and discrimination against them, and over such phenomena as child marriages, sexual abuse and harassment, and female circumcision. It should be mentioned that among the supporters who have uploaded pictures are many men, who cited the same reasons.

Amal from Saudi Arabia: "I support the Uprising of Women in the Arab World because I am tired of asking my guardian's permission for everything, including opening a bank account, traveling, seeking medical treatment, working, buying real-estate, conducting any business transaction, and calling a driver. Enough!"[4]

Saba from Yemen: "Even though I am completely covered, I still suffer harassment, which is why I support the Uprising of Women in the Arab World."[5]

The Motivations For Launching The Campaign

The campaign initiators are human and women's rights activists Diala Haidar and Yalda Younes from Lebanon; Farah Barqawi, a Palestinian; and Sally Zohney from Egypt. According to Barqawi, the main motivation for launching it is the need to complete the Arab Spring revolutions by attaining rights for women. She said: "After women took part in the revolutions, and after the regimes in their countries changed, they were once again banished from the political arena and the attack on their rights began."[6]

In several of her articles, women's rights activist Nawal Al-Sa'adawi stressed that, after the rise of Islamist regimes, women suffer discrimination and oppression, mentioning the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the post-Arab Spring Islamist regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Referring to the Egyptian revolution, Al-Sa'adawi asked: "Is this [i.e., the oppression of women] the result of the popular mass-revolution in Egypt, which ousted the leader of the previous corrupt regime? Did we take to the streets and squares on January 25, 2011 in order to cover up the faces of girls, or to [enforce] the so-called shari'a directives?" According to Al-Sa'adawi, "religion must be separated from education, culture, art, the constitution and the legal code – especially from family law."[7]

In another article, which was also posted on the campaign's Facebook page, Al-Sa'adawi wrote that "the freedom, justice, and honor [of the Egyptian people in general, and Egyptian women in particular] will only be achieved by inculcating these values from childhood... so that Egyptians respect them automatically, not out of desire to win a reward, or out of fear."[8]

In yet another article, Al-Sa'adawi wrote: "The liberation of women is not separate from the liberation of Egypt as a whole... One would think that the issue of the Egyptian woman would be among the political, social, and cultural issues [to be discussed] after the January 2011 revolution... since women participated in [this revolution] alongside men... [But the problem is that] women are excluded from the [new] regime. Most of them sit at home, wearing the hijab, subject to the absolute control of their husbands, as dictated by the patriarchal family law..."[9]

It should be mentioned that, much like Al-Sa'adawi, who links the liberation of Egyptian women to the liberation of the country as a whole, the campaign received support from various political forces that are promoting revolutions against oppressive Arab regimes. For example, among its supporters is a group named "Young Women For Syria," which describes itself as a Syrian youth organization opposing the Syrian regime, and which opened a Facebook page expressing support for Syrian women who went on a hunger strike in Egypt in September 2012 to express solidarity with Syria.[10]

Samira Ibrahim, who exposed the virginity checks performed by a military doctor on women who participated in the Egyptian protests: "I support The Uprising of Women in the Arab World, because [they] are the womb of the revolutions."[11]

'Alia Magda Al-Madhi from Egypt, who published nude photos of herself during the revolution in protest of oppression and attacks on freedom of expression: "I support The Uprising of Women in the Arab World because I was threatened with rape, incarceration, and murder. I was abducted, abused, and almost raped for posting an artful nude picture of myself and discussing women's rights on my blog; for having sex with my lover; and for leaving my parents' home."

Hend Sabry, a Tunisian actress and international activists in the fight against global hunger: "I am with The Uprising of Women in the Arab World because free women raise free men... and a revolution that doesn't acknowledge women['s] rights is not a revolution, it's a regression."[13]

The Case Of Dana Bakdounis – Facebook Partially Censors The Campaign

As part of the campaign, Dana Bakdounis, a young Syrian oppositionist, posted a photo of herself holding up her passport photo, in which she is wearing a hijab. She wrote: "I support the Uprising of Women in the Arab World because for 20 years I was forbidden to feel the wind on my body and hair." According to the campaign organizers, the picture was removed from the campaign page several days later by Facebook due to complaints from Islamist elements, who described it as "offensive." In addition, the Facebook page of campaign initiator Diala Haidar, who uploaded Bakdounis' picture to the campaign page, was suspended for 24 hours.[14]

The photo of Dana Bakdounis that was removed from the campaign's Facebook page.[15]

The incident sparked an uproar, especially on the social networks, with many people expressing solidarity with Bakdounis. Several girls followed her example and posted photos of themselves with and without the hijab.

A woman named Fatima posted pictures of herself with and without a hijab in solidarity with Bakdounis.[16]

Message posted by the campaign initiators urging supporters to continue spreading Bakdounis' picture on Twitter.

Men Support The Campaign As Well

Egyptian film director 'Omar Salameh: "I support the Uprising of Women in the Arab World. How can we pretend that we're fighting dictatorship, when each of us behaves like a dictator towards his mother or sister or wife or daughter? If we treat them like slaves they will only bring up [more] slaves."[17]

Palestinian Muhammad Nasser and his daughter Nour: "How can I not support the Uprising of Women in the Arab World when most people insist on calling me 'Abu Watan' instead of 'Abu Nour' because Watan is a boy and Nour is a girl, even though Nour is the eldest[?]"[18]

Monther from Jordan: "I am with the Uprising of Women in the Arab World because humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. And how is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of only one part while the other part is ignored?"

* B. Chernitsky is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[6] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), October 21, 2012. Yalda Younes made similar statements on the TV show "Meeting Point" on BBC Arabic. She said that women's situation was bad before the revolutions but has since become even worse. She added that the revolution must be completed by establishing a democratic regime guaranteeing rights to all. For a video of the program, see

[7], October 23, 2012; Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 1, 2012.

[9] Al-Hayat (London), August 29, 2012.

[14] Haidar wrote on her Facebook page that the picture had been removed due to complaints by "extremist Islamist women-haters" and slammed Facebook for stifling free speech while "pretending to support it."

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