While the post-Arab Spring turmoil is affecting men, women, and children, but specific types of pernicious violence systematically target women and girls. The post-Arab Spring initial backlash on women s rights is not only gathering momentum everyday, but it is developing into unprecedented new types of violence against women with the dangerously mounting tide of Jihadists. The new forms of violence range from the imposition of the niqab (total veiling), the ban of women from public unless they are accompanied by a male member of the family, a return of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) for women between the ages of 11 and 46, stoning to death of women in cases of adultery, assassination of female activists, Jihad al-Nikah (brainwashed women offering sex in support of the Jihadists), and enslavement (buying/selling of women and girls). These new forms of violence are indirectly
sanctioning the already familiar types such as moralization incriminating women for any social crisis, domestic battering, increased sexual harassment, forced marriage, and (gang) rape that accompanied the post-uprising phases in the region. The ambiguous barriers between moderate and extremist Islamists is intensifying the daily misery of women in most parts of the region and threatening the hard-won women s rights, and systematic brainwashing is involving more and more women in the recruitment of female Jihadists. In parallel, extreme violence against women is heavily used in the Jihadists propaganda narratives and glorified by mainstream media. The dire absence of statistics, let alone serious academic research, on this issue is adding fuel to an already hot problem whose short- and long- term social, economic, and political repercussions are far-reaching and call for a combination of reliable research and urgent policies.
The seventh edition of the Mediterranean Women Forum has a central and a more overarching aims. Its central aim is to document and unveil the new types of violence that women are subject to, link them to the familiar types, understand their social, economic and political ramifications, dig out their surface and deeper underpinnings especially in relation to Jihadism, propose strategies to stop them, and seek short- and long- term policies that would implement these strategies. The overarching aim of the project is to highlight the relevance of the topic for the sensitive, tantalizing, and boarder issues such women s economic and political empowerment, the reform of education, the reform of the religious field, the enhancement of an inclusive democracy in the region, the separation of religion from politics, the role of the media, and the heterogeneous nature of political Islam. As Islam is at the same an integral part of men s and women s everyday life and a ruling tool at all levels, the project seeks to integrate it as part of the solution not the problem.
The Forum will consist of the following axes:
1.Types of violence Against women
2.The Media as a glorifier of Violence
3.Strategies to combat this violence
The languages of the Forum are: Arabic, French and English
Routledge will publish an edited book on the themes. The book will be edited by Fatima Sadiqi (conference director)
Women's rights in the south of the Mediterranean have been on the rise with ups and downs. These rights triggered debates and dialogue between women from the two shores of the Mediterranean. Currently, there seems to be a backlash on these rights after the Arab uprisings. In reflecting on the fate of these rights more tha two years after the uprisings, many paradoxes come to mind.
On the one hand, we witness a spectacular presence of women of all ages, ideologies, ethnicities and social statuses during the political mobilization phases of the uprisings (as has been well documented by the media), and yet, on the other hand, in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, etc. the new governments, elected by the people, have a very weak, if not zero, representation of women. Further, on on the one hand, the political Islamization of the MENA region is a fact, but yet (and here is the paradox), what most women's rights advocates (scholars and activists) scored through decades was also Islamic gains (women's rights advocates in the region fought to improve, not replace, Sharia laws and they have targeted patriarchy not Islam). More than that, many Islamic feminists (scholars and activists) worked together and Islam has never been a problem so far as women's rights advocates in the region are concerned.
These paradoxes call for serious debate and action. The goal of the forum is to discuss the relevant issues and the ensuing new challenges for feminist academics, activists and politicians. The forum is organized around nine major axes:
Equality of sexes in the new constitutions
Feminist discourses in the region (secular/liberal and Islamic feminisms)
Feminine and feminist activisms
Women's political participation in the eve of the Arab uprisings
Women and economic empowerment
Women and cultural Rights
Women's rights and public/individual freedoms, masculinites
Women and transnational networking
The languages of the forum will be : Arabic, French and English.
With the growing dominance of the Internet, blog, chat and mobile telephony, the great 'big bang' of the new media has begun, and consequently, communication is rapidly changing and becoming mobile, interactive, personalized and multi-channel. This extraordinary revolution is affecting the basic structure of Mediterranean societies, especially those in the south, and is raising discussions and debates that are profoundly related to women: the rapid transformation of the boundaries between the public and the private spaces, the relationship between the new media and women's activism, the relationship between new technology and women's oral literature, changes in the relationship between written and oral languages, the (problematic) increase in the use of mother tongues (mainly oral) in the field of education, and the challenges of new transmissions of women's versatile knowledge.
These issues constitute the five main axes of the international forum on 'Women and New Media in the Mediterranean Region', which will be held on June 24, 25 and 26, 2011 at the Palais des Congrès in Fez:
The new media and the deep transformations of the gender/space relationships
The new media and women's activism
The new media and women's oral literature
The new media, gender and language use in education
The challenge of new transmissions of women's knowledge
The conference brings together activists and researchers from the Mediterranean region, North America and Asia.
The conference is an extension of workshops and other conferences and discussions that Isis Center organized in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The recommendations of these events pointed to the importance of addressing women and the new social media in the Mediterranean region and internationally.
The outcomes of the upcoming conference will not be just paper-based. In addition to publishing a volume on the theme of the conference, we plan to link our activities with the Journal of New Media Studies for example, supervise MA and PhD theses on the theme, and train 15 local women in new media knowledge