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She’s a Woman. Hit her.

She’s a Woman. Hit her.

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, July 4

What happened in the Tunisian Parliament last week is infuriating. A member of parliament named Sahbi Samara suddenly jumped out of his seat. Walking in confidence, he headed directly toward his colleague and head of the Free Constitutional Party, Ms. Abeer Moussa. He walked a few more steps and then slapped her hard. Another deputy named Seifeddine Makhlouf, who apparently did not like Samara’s “tolerance,” completed the task by kicking Moussa on her knee. There was a bit of mayhem, but the parliament didn’t stop its work. Business simply continued as normal. This provocation is compounded by two factors. First: it is Tunisia, the only country whose revolution was able to achieve relative success. One of the fruits of that revolution was the ratification, in 2017, of Law No. 58 to combat violence against women and strive to achieve gender equality. Second: it took place in the parliament – that is,  the place that is supposed to reflect gender equality and good citizenship. But Mr. Samara and Mr. Makhlouf wanted to turn this parliament into another space where women obey the order of men. Today, this audacity to attack women takes many forms elsewhere in our region. Take Turkey, for example: A few months ago, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to take his country out of the “Istanbul Convention,” which aims to protect women from violence. By now, Turkey has officially withdrawn from the treaty. The arguments put forward by defenders of withdrawal are strange: “The agreement supports homosexuality and contributes to the dismantling of the family and society.” Turkey, which has witnessed in recent years a noticeable increase in violence against women, will certainly witness a greater increase after the removal of this restriction. News of abuse of women has proliferated around us and takes many forms. Recently in Iran’s presidential elections, forty out of forty women candidates were rejected. All of them were rejected, without exception. It may be said that men did not have the best luck, the evidence being that about 590 of them were also rejected. Nevertheless, seven men were allowed to run for office, and one of them, Ebrahim Raisi, won the presidency. Women’s oppression is being exacerbated today for reasons related to the political situation in the region: its rupture, the widespread poverty, misery and unemployment, and the collapse of the economic, health and educational systems. For all of these things, women pay a considerably heavier price than men. Unfortunately, it’s become easy for Islamists and their supporters to paint everything progressive, including the liberties of women, as if it were against the people and their freedom. In the wake of such restraints, we must put aside our dogmatic beliefs and understand that the women in our societies must be protected. – Hazem Saghieh (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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