Yet another week went by with Femen making headlines for sending topless women to protest in my name.
As a 20-year old refugee, foreign student, activist, engineer, and Muslim Arab woman, I’ve spent the majority of my life belonging to the minority-of-the-minorities group. I’ve been sidelined by society, jobs, and even at one point healthcare; however, never have I ever thought that baring my chest and storming naked into a Mosque, a place of holy worship would solve any of my issues.
An open letter
Femen, you are the equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood; fighting religion, or fighting in the name of religion.Yara al-Wazir
Femen, you are the equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood; fighting religion, or fighting in the name of religion. Using religion as a way to gain mass appeal is a pathetic method to gain support, the results of which are only temporary until the public sees your true colours. Whether you send your activists to protest in France, Tunisia, or Stockholm, they do not represent me, and I refuse to allow international media to assume that as an Arab woman, the problems I face with sexism are a result of Islam. They are a result of the backward sexist society that we live in.
Femen, I fail to understand your sudden fascination with the Arab World. As a radical organisation founded in the Ukraine, perhaps I shall raise the issues of sexism that I’ve faced while living in Europe. From sexism in the workplace, the dismissal of my application by several companies because of the “nature of the industry”, to being harassed while walking home from the library, I’ve seen it all. What I haven’t seen, however, are your activists protesting topless at my local library.
Femen, living in Europe taught me that this is a culture that would rather teach women how to avoid being raped, rather than teaching men not to rape. I’ve learnt that no matter how many layers of thick sweaters I wear in the winter, men still seem to think they have the right to make comments about my body. I’ve learnt that I’ll always have to work that much harder to prove myself, and that sometimes, sending my brother to solve my issue with my mobile-phone network provider is quicker than solving it myself, as it avoids the time wasted patronising me because the provider thinks I’m technologically impaired because I’m a woman. I learnt all this without a single mosque in my city. Where are your activists to protest the real issues I face?
Femen, your fascination with the Arab World excites me.Yara al-Wazir
Femen, your fascination with the Arab World excites me. It excites me because every time I read an article with your name in the title, I wonder if you have finally tackled something meaningful. Perhaps the issue of women’s right to education in the Middle East, the lack of equal job opportunities, or the sexism faced by female Israeli soldiers. I dream of the day that Femen protests for the rights of the widowed refugees, the single mothers forced to raise and provide for entire families because of the wars the Arab world has faced. Instead, I see you protesting Sharia law in countries where Sharia law isn’t even the backbone of the constitution.
The radical methods you use only impede the advancement of women in the Middle East, and all over the world. Femen, you give Arab women a bad name.
Femen, I’m an activist myself, and I know first hand the hardships of making a meaningful statement that is heard, echoed, and at the same time relatable. When I needed inspiration, I turned to the Feminist movement of the 1960’s. This movement had a solid purpose; it fought an established system and advocated for the involvement of women and ensured their representation in society and politics. Sure, leading rallies without bra’s was a way to make a statement, but these statements were against society, not a religion or belief. These statements were fighting an existing system imbedded deep in Western culture; they did night fight preconceived imaginary constitutions. Is it fair for Femen to advocate respecting women’s rights when Femen does not respect women’s beliefs?
Femen, in moving forward, I have the same wishes for you as I do for the Muslim Brotherhood. Take religion out of the equation and insert an all-inclusive society. Change the system, not the belief. Change the methods and you will see results. I’m sure you mean well, but next time you want to send women to protest naked, don’t do it in my name.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir