Women’s Roles In Independence Movements Throughout The Middle East

762 words - 3 pages

Women’s roles in independence movements throughout the Middle East were as varied as their male counterparts’, though arguably not as well remembered. Many women rebelled from within traditional feminine spaces, as defined by colonizers and male nationals, rather than vying for roles in the traditional political sphere. Female and male revolutionaries risked the same dangers, but almost invariably women did not hold any significant leadership positions within nationalistic movements. Colonial powers often did not differentiate between male and female enemy combatants, punishing both with equal severity. In both Egypt and Algeria, independence movements employed a language of ‘women’s rights’ and ‘women’s issues’ to advance their aims, yet in both these countries women were especially susceptible to the violence of war and their ‘rights’ were hardly addressed again after independence had been won. This strategy is not an uncommon one in histories of colonialism and nationalism. Still, it provides a staging ground for examination of the meaning of citizenship and offers insight into the nation-making process.
Judith Tucker examines the roles of ‘insurrectionary’ women in nineteenth century Egypt: their perceived place in society, the forms of rebellion they undertook, and their results. She observes that though the history of women’s political involvement (at this time) cannot be written into the history of Egypt’s formal political sphere, it is not any less significant. She points out that only a few (female) individuals stand out against the backdrop of traditional political history, though clearly independence movements depend on the participation of all of society, a fact which is often overlooked in history textbooks. Women’s resistance in nineteenth century Egypt tended to be less organized and more individualistic. They frequently used tactics of passive resistance against the imposition of specific rules by Colonial authorities. When their rebellion became more active they faced the same, and often a worse, fate than men. The state regarded acts of open rebellion as criminal and Mamluk soldiers treated female transgressors especially brutally. Women, in general, were more susceptible to the violence of nationalist movements, bearing the brunt of crime. Despite all of this, women were not welcome into elite anti-colonial circles and their experiences and opinions were largely ignored by both Colonial and anti-Colonial powers.

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