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Economist: Women and the Arab Awakening: Now Is the Time

October 15, 2011

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In Egypt and Tunisia, women are both hopeful and fearful about what the Arab revolutions might mean for them. But as constitutions in these countries are being rewritten, women hope to push their own liberation.

"ALL of us were there, throwing stones, moving dead bodies. We did everything. There was no difference between men and women." So says Asmaa Mahfouz, an Egyptian activist, remembering the protests that felled Hosni Mubarak at the beginning of the year. Though some men told her to get out of the way, others held up umbrellas to protect her.

In Tunisia Lina Ben Mhenni, an activist, travelled round the country documenting protests on her blog, "A Tunisian Girl". Besides photographing the dead and wounded, she included pictures of herself with male protesters at sit-ins in the Kasbah in Tunis. Tawakul Karman, awarded the Nobel peace prize at the beginning of October, has been a leading figure in the pro-democracy demonstrations in Yemen, camping out for months in front of Sana'a University, calling for Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president, to step down. Defying their stereotype as victims of oppressive patriarchies, Arab women have made their presence a defining feature of the Arab spring.

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