Mada Masr—As I researched and joined political actions responding to the Muslim ban—the third iteration of which remains permanently in place—I was appalled by the trend of responses lacking any sort of feminist and/or queer analysis. When responses did mention gender, they wittingly or unwittingly reified the dynamic of centralizing forms of gender violence that can be explained through cultural and religious frames while obscuring the realities of gender violence inflicted by the US state and the Muslim ban itself.
In the summer of 2014, as activists in Ferguson, Missouri, faced the military-grade weapons of four city and state police departments—tear gas, smoke bombs, stun grenades, and tanks—Gazans were confronting Israel’s heavy artillery shelling, massive use of cannons, mortars, and half-ton to one-ton missiles.1 The canisters fired in both Gaza and Ferguson were U.S.-made.2
In January 2011, Egypt and, indeed, the world witnessed something immense and unprecedented: millions of people from every sector of society took to the streets to overthrow their dictator. As known scholars and activists involved and interested in Egyptian politics, both authors of this essay were approached to comment on the momentous events and/or speak about them at public forums.
In March 2016, a series of statements, news articles, and human rights reports circulated on social media in the global north, calling for an end to the crackdown on feminists in Egypt. These calls emerged in response to news that Mozn Hassan, director of the internationally renowned grassroots feminist organization Nazra for Feminist Studies, had become the focus of an investigation by Egyptian authorities.
On November 4, 2014, the US Department of Justice put Palestinian-American Rasmea Odeh on trial for allegedly lying on her naturalization application ten years earlier, when she did not indicate that the Israeli state arrested, convicted, and imprisoned her in 1969. On October 27, foreshadowing the injustices to come, Judge Gershwin Drain ruled that Odeh could not speak of her imprisonment in Israel.
Amid ongoing battles over the shape of political systems in the Arab world, intense sexual violence against women in those countries, and protest movements by women fighting for their rights, advancing the causes of Arab women is of utmost importance. Yet international human rights advocates often confront the struggles of women in Arab countries far too simplistically.