More than 10 years after the Arab Spring uprisings, little attention has been paid to the role women played on the frontlines or to their ongoing struggle for reforms. Unfinished Revolution—a new report from Nobel Women’s Initiative— draws on the experiences and insights of 15 women activists, profiling the courage and contributions of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in the MENA region. It documents the tactics used to silence them and the strategies they use to resist and endure. Women also speak out on what they need to sustain their struggle.
While the initial hopes of the 2011 Arab Spring have largely been dashed, the struggle for women’s rights has become central to successive waves of protest across the region. Women remain at the forefront of the broader quest for peace, justice, and human rights, despite a growing crackdown on civil society and a range of brutal tactics used to silence them.
Autocracy is entrenched in most countries, while several are torn apart by conflict and the rise of militias. Civic space has all but disappeared. Those who dare to stand up for women’s and human rights risk physical and sexual abuse, torture, imprisonment and exile.
While all rights defenders are targeted, women are targeted with specific forms of abuse, including sexual violence and threats, and defamation through public smear campaigns. In recent years, observers have raised the alarm about a growing backlash against women activists. The barriers to progressive change are daunting, too often lethal, and proliferating. But for many of these women, persistence is the only option. Unfinished Revolution gives voice to their stories and insights. It testifies to their bravery and fortitude in the face of brutal opposition.
“We don’t have the luxury to stop or lose hope. The more resistant and resilient we are, the more we push the state and people to change their mindsets towards respecting women and human rights.”
Egyptian lawyer, human rights defender, feminist
Co-founder, Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance