The Arab World Coming Together to Fight Violence Against Women
By: Caroline Umphlet / Arab America Contributing Writer
In light of recent events, Arabs are uniting together to show their support of women’s rights and safety.
Naira Ashraf was an Egyptian student tragically killed on June 20th by a classmate. The culprit has been sentenced to capital punishment, sending a message to the people. However, nothing will be enough to reverse the damage. All of this was a reaction because Ashraf repeatedly rejected his proposal for marriage. She was 21 and studying at Mansoura University in the Faculty of the Arts. She wanted to focus on her up and coming successful modeling career and had wishes to become a flight attendant.
The outrage from people intensified when another woman was killed the same week in Jordan for the same reason, declining a marriage proposal. Iman Rashid was a 21 year old student as well, studying to become a nurse.
There has been a massive reaction across the region, and globally, calling for change towards officials. The fact that there is such an outrage at all over these two deplorable deaths shows that the MENA region is not tolerant of misogynistic violence. This kind of senseless and atrocious violence is not acceptable to the Egyptian or Jordanian people, the Arab world, and especially the principles of Islam.
Local response has been an online flood of support for Naira Ashraf and Iman Rashid. The Arabic equivalent of the hashtag “#justiceforNairaAshraf” (حق_نيرة_أشرف#) has been trending on social media platforms. Hundreds and thousands of people have shown their support for the victims’ family and friends. People are very outspoken about their desire for the Egyptian government to do something about it.
Some respond through various forms of art. An illustrator on Instagram, Nouri Flayhan, has drawn portraits of Naira Ashraf and Iman Rashid to spread awareness of their stories. She, like many others, wants these women to be remembered for their strong and beautiful souls, not just nameless victims of ongoing violence.
More posts on social media call for Egyptian men in particular and how they can use their privilege to stand up and help protect their sisters, mothers, friends, and any other women. This post outlines suggestions on what to do in different scenarios if they witness something happening.
Harassment is indeed illegal in Egypt, but there is not enough enforcement. The state made stricter sexual harassment laws in 2021, “raising fines and extending prison sentences.”
Various Arab women’s rights groups have come out with statements claiming that this must be the last incident and that the government must take action to prevent any more harm. Officials for The Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA) agree, “It is time for a law to be enacted to confront violence against women, socially and family-wise,” Seham Ali stated.
The National Council for Women condemned a video released of a TV presenter talking about Naira Ashraf personal decision to not wear a hijab. They filed official complaints of the man inciting hate speech and violence against women, and thousands agreed.
All in all, it is definitively clear that the majority of the Arab world does not condone this behavior at all. The way that everyone has come together during such a disheartening time and from every region is inspiring and promising. Violence against women is a long-standing issue, but with modern technology and how connected everyone is online, spreading awareness and promoting change is quicker and more accessible to a wider audience.
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