No one will forget the scenes of women rallying in the streets and public squares of the Arab world, demanding the overthrow of repressive regimes that had been in power for decades. Those scenes were an important signal that Arab society was changing for the better.
The broad participation of women in the Arab Spring revolutions shocked the authoritarian regimes, which had expected that women would remain cautious and wouldn't take part in popular demonstrations that could have posed serious risks to their lives. Women's participation in the 2011 protests confounded dictatorships and intelligence services, as it showed the full extent of the popular rejection of such entities and contributed to the quick downfall of several oppressive regimes. It also revealed the important role that women could play in challenging the resistance to change, the lack of any meaningful political reform, and authoritarian regimes rife with nepotism, corruption and bribery. Political and cultural elites did not anticipate that women would take part in popular uprisings.
Today, some bemoan the deteriorating conditions of women as a result of counter-revolutions that have used different forms of repression, armed violence and expropriation of public spaces. They have blamed the Arab Spring, which raises eyebrows.
Arab popular uprisings were neither surplus to foreign requirements, nor did they erupt from the machinations and motives of other countries or at the whim of local parties. A comprehensive review of the overall human rights situation, as well as the political, economic and social conditions in the countries in which the uprisings took place, points to the inevitability of the revolutions. Youth, who were fed up with the autocracy, corruption and bribery, had no choice but to proceed in this way.
In 2011, women surprised everyone when they decided to change from being victims to inspiring leaders. We can now say with confidence that women and young people brought about the Arab Spring, made sacrifices and paid a heavy price for their involvement during and after the uprisings.
Why did women make this unexpected move? Perhaps because they, like the youth of these countries, were the biggest victims of those corrupt regimes that had failed to respect human dignity and provide them with liberty, essential freedoms and equal rights. They were thus the main beneficiaries of change, and they made sure that change continued every day.
Just as women were the...