Arab Women… Minors Until They Die

Though blessed with inner strength that enables them to deal with the shackles of their culture, some Arab women are dealt with as minors who will never reap the fruits of adulthood. Egyptian bloggers Fantasia's World, Dalia Ziada, Asser Yasser, Heba Najeeb are all women who have been featured on Global Voices for standing up for their rights, as have those blogging “sinster spinsters“, who refuse to consider themselves outcasts. 

Eman Hashim from Egypt and Eman Al Nafjan from Saudi Arabia are among the ranks of Arab women who stomp in protest at the notion that women are not able to think for themselves.

Eman Hashim believes that all we need is a hundred years to progress, in her critique of the movie Iron Jawed Angels:

This movie is about the fight American women had to go through for 8 whole years starting from 1912 to have the right to vote.

Then she lists the arguments that men used at the time to put a damper on their plea:

“The female mind is inferior to the male mind need not to be assumed “

“There’s something about it essentially different and that this difference is of a kind and degree that makes votes for women would constitute a political danger ought to be plain to everybody”

“I don’t wish to see the day comes when the women in my state shall trail their skirts in the muck and mire of partisan politics”

She knows how similar those arguments are to the lines she hears daily from her male counterparts:

kind of reminds me of how some men consider themselves “cursed” if ruled, judged or asked by a woman!
The only thing that I can’t get over is the fact that this movie is almost hundred years ago!! They had this kind of debates hundred years ago.

Eman knows that there is a worst fight:

The worse fight than fighting men for them [the women in the movie] was fighting another woman, who hated how powerful and independent they are and who felt weak and helpless in front of them.

It is true:

How many times have you met a woman who voluntarily declares her stupidity and ignorance just to get a man’s attention and approval?
How many women have you talked to and they just faked inferiority to nourish a no-body guy just to get a proposal?
How many places have you gone to where women refuse to get business done with other women cause “we are not as smart as men”?
I know that a lot of my fellow doctors never went to a female doctor nor they ever intend to because “male doctors are cleverer”
I know that women don’t like to go to electronic stores and deal with saleswomen cause “we just don’t understand technology!”
I know my friends who resist any piece of information related to their laptops cause “guys just get these kinds of things not us”

Eman Al Nafjan is facing a similar issue with Saudi Arabia's recent guardianship campaign. Eman Hashim wrote Someone to Watch Over Me: On the Saudi Guardianship Campaign in her support:

When a woman says, “My guardian knows what’s best for me,” what should we do?

Earlier this month, blogger Eman Al Nafjan posted her feelings about a new campaign in Saudi Arabia. The campaign, which began last month, is called “My guardian knows what’s best for me” and aims to gather one million signatures in support of the kingdom’s status quo in regard to women’s guardianship laws. According to Al Nafjan, two Saudi princesses who support this campaign have started their own websites devoted to the issue. You can find both websites here and here (both are in Arabic).

Eman clearly explains her reasons for rejecting the campaign and the two royalty-backed sites promoting it saying:

If a woman wants someone to be her guardian and wants him to take care of her, her life and her choices, that’s fine by me, as long it’s her own choice and as long as she’s not asking me or any other woman to do the same!
They believe in something and they are expressing it. Believing in freedom of opinion, I wouldn’t have had reservations against the campaign if it weren’t for how they refused and rejected those who disagree with them.

At the end of the post, Eman eloquently rests her case:

Why do we only perceive our life style as the only right way of living? Who on this earth has the right to force his way, his choices and his morals on other people as rules?
Women empowerment will not be achieved neither by Saudi princesses quoting some verses from Qur’an on their online campaigns, nor by human rights activists who sometimes also slip into the same mistake of prejudice when they meet any woman whose life style is different from theirs.
Empowerment is the freedom to choose. Bring up your daughter to believe in herself and her potentials, educate her, and then let her lead her own life and make her own choices. If you bring up your daughter as a fragile creature that’s liable to fracture and who is unable to protect herself, she’ll grow up into a woman who’s just that: a fragile creature unable to protect herself.
Give her the liberty to choose her life, and stop judging her if that choice doesn’t resemble yours.

On her blog, Eman Hashim is screaming out loud: ENOUGH:

This guy in the movie was a typical abuser; calm, steady, persistent and NEVER takes no for an answer. I don’t want to go a lot through how obvious he was because it will make no one any use. Let’s assume that something really has gotten into him. It happened! The first slap! What would you do?

Deciding the this is the most important quote in the movie, Eman quotes the abusive husband:

I make the money, so I set the rules!
That’s right. When you can’t pay for your own bread ladies, don’t expect to pick it up from the supermarket. He’ll pick it up for you and you’ll say “Thank you”, and eat it … gladly!!

Still thinking of the dire conditions some women put up with in the name of traditions, she tells them:

RUN! Take your kids and just go away!
You will probably have no money, you will probably have no roof, and you may not have the support of your family – especially if you’re from the Middle East”, but you’ll have this power that you don’t know where it’s coming from, that power that will push you to continue.

In that movie, her push was when she saw her daughter scared of her father. The idea of her daughter being in danger was enough for her. I think this can be a very good push for so many of us!

She knows it is hard but she wants them to know that they have options:

The taste of first bite you pay for from your own money after you said “No” is just the best taste you will ever have!
Living and knowing that you are fighting for yourself and your children will make it all much easier.

To all those scared women she says that Slim, Jennifer Lopez in the movie:

She never thought of what people will say about her, she thought of not being “the woman whose husband beats her up!”

She wasn’t worried about the fact that her daughter might be affected in the future because her parents were divorced; she was worried her daughter might actually watch her mother being beaten up!

She made the choice that by far saved the life of her daughter, saved her from growing up thinking “It’s ok to be beaten up as long as you have a man in your house!” or “It’s that big to be beaten up, it doesn’t mean anything, a man can do anything he wants as long as he pays the bills and puts food on the table” or “Better being beaten up by a man who lives under the same roof as you do, than by living alone with no man!”


  • The “great” lady Mrs. Fifi Abdo was on TV yesterday at the show “Bab el Shams” with a respected TV host and she said “el set mateswash 7aga mengher el ragel.” (translation: the woman is worth nothing without a man). This was, is, and always will be the mindset of most Arab (specifically egyptian) women. Great post!

  • azmat

    Great injustices have been committed against women in the name of Islam. More than 1400 years have elapsed, still Islam has afforded no rights to Muslim women compared to those in contemporary western societies. Islam stands alone as the only abuser of women’s rights in the world. Muslim writers however claim that the harsh treatment of women in Islamic countries is the result of the culture they live in and therefore no fault of the religion of Islam. And that is a boldface lie. The evidence of mistreatment of women under sharia law is every where in Quran and Hadith. Islamic authors, like Jamal Badawi who write articles that promote Islam’s just treatment of women are misleading. They claim that Islam brings awareness of women’s rights into the world and lifts humanity out of the dark ages. Who are they kidding! people are begining to see the true nature of Islam everyday through media sources. They only want to discredit what the Bible teaches and show how Islam is wonderfully democratic in its treatment of women. Majority of Islamic authors are deceitfully selective with the material they quote from the Qur’an and Hadith. They pick out may be 10% of the positive and carefully leave out 90% of the negative material. Their only objective is to legitimize Islam as the only religion of justice and peace. And that is absolutely not true.

  • […] Global Voices Online discusses Arab women’s legal statuses as minors. […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.