Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Stay in the Kitchen! We will fight for you!

Algerian protests, feminists
Women pose for a picture as Algerian protesters demonstrate against their ailing president’s bid for a fifth term in power, in Algiers on March 8, 2019. Photo: RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

Hakim Marzouki

Yellow-Vest women did not bring cooking pots to the Champs-Elyse. Why?

Do you remember the protest demonstrations in France known as the Yellow Vests? A question that may be cunning and not innocent: Why did not we see women prepare meals for demonstrators in the French protests, like in Sudan and perhaps other Arab and Muslim countries? Why didn’t these protest demonstrations include divisions or clashes within them due to classifications of gender, political orientations, and raised slogans?

The answer is almost one, even if it comes implicitly and under certain pretexts and convictions. Our social and cultural peculiarities differ from theirs. Our political demands, which have a holistic dimension, differ from their protesting cries that do not go beyond their factional ones.

Then, the issue is related to the structure of society and its priorities. Most of the demonstrations and public movements in the Arab countries are either forgetful or oblivious to the rest of society; filling the street in which they move with a masculine color, under a banner that cannot have room except for the mentality that wishes to monopolize streets and its movement alone.

To understand the society and monitor the class and cultural hierarchy, we only need a thorough look at Arab protesting streets. Many indicators such as clothes, slogans, places of gathering give evidence of the domination of the masculine tendency. They indicate the reluctance of accepting the female element, even if the situation differs relatively from one country to another, according to gains of women that their governments allowed in the form of small portions of freedom.

“I am a feminist. I will not back down from my rights. The intruders in this public movement will not hinder freedom and struggle of women”, with this phrase, Algerian feminist Amal Hajjaj began her interview with the German Press Agency. She recalled a few weeks back and evoked the incident of violence against women activists in the feminist movement, a global movement concerned with general feminine demands within the framework of the global movement of women, on the sixth Friday of Algeria protests.

During the movement of women on Friday, March 29, Hajjaj was assaulted along with her colleagues. That day witnessed a large presence of women in the public movement square against the permanence of the former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime. Amal recalls the events of that Friday. “Before this date, we organized ourselves and agreed on social media to structure our feminist movement. As soon as we started gathering on the public street, demonstrators crawled on us and stole our banners that carried the slogans of the feminist movement calling for women’s liberation and equality, they assaulted us physically and verbally.”

Many Algerian young women denounce such repeated assaults against female activists in the feminist movement. In turn, these activists try to raise old, renewed demands regarding equality and freedom for women. They also try to abolish the family law, which they consider as a man-made punishment brutally imposed on women. According to these activists, it is a pity to see women turning a blind eye to such practices and even consider them a natural reaction to those who came to disturb the peace of the public movement and distort it towards narrow factional demands.

In such situations, political ideology prevails over civil rights. Therefore, we might see some women fight against their gender. Haddah Hazzam, the director of the Islamist Algerian newspaper al-Fajr, believes that the feminists joining the public movement to demand their feminist rights are jumping on the legitimate demands of the movement. According to her, protests would undermine and abort the movement.

On the other hand, the Algerian female protestor went to the square, supporting the young men and women in their public movement, giving it a national symbolism, settling the matter, and tipping the scale in favor of the struggle between political and civil rights. However, this will not conceal the defect in the masculine structure of Algerian society, and the attempt to monopolize privilege and the right to go to the streets for the majority of men, excluding women, as if these people are telling women, “Stay in the kitchen, and we will take care of this public movement.”

Of course, no one can deny the positive aspects associated with the Algerian public movement. These aspects were visible when women and of different age groups participated in the movement. The same applies to Tunisia and Egypt in January 2011. As for Sudan, the iconic Alaa Saleh represented those people. For that, Saleh exemplifies the Sudanese Kandaka. The Sudanese women manifested their determination among the demonstrators by cooking in front of the cooking pots. By this, they were saying: We will not stay in the kitchen, we and the kitchen will join you here.

Of course, this peculiarity is not found in the yellow vests demonstrating on the Champs-Elysees. But what could spoil it is the fear of extremists infiltrating it, or an attempt to distort the compass and falsify slogans in a society that does not have much human rights immunity because of what religious dictatorship and individual rule have done for decades.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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