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‘The revolution is a woman’: the women at the front of Lebanese protests

A friend went to the Lebanon solidarity demo in Brisbane and said the people were wearing make-up, high heels and suits … here is an article from THE CONVERSATION – Editor, WBT

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‘The revolution is a woman’: the women at the front of Lebanese protests

Lebanon Protests

Women have been on the front line of the Lebanese protests – or “thawra” – from day one, and despite the recent news of the resignation of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, they aren’t ready to back down.

Dayna Ash has spent the last two weeks sleeping on the streets of Beirut. It’s a small price to pay when you’re battling to overthrow a government.

“I joined the protests on the first night. We escaped tear gas and ran into more gas, we forgot what it was like to breathe.

“Our eyes bulged from strain, and our throats and lungs ached.”

Over the past fortnight, the world has watched on as anti-government protests and human chains disrupt cities across Lebanon.

This is the first time that people of all religious backgrounds, socio-economic classes, identities and regions have unified; in what locals – like Dayna – say is a chance ‘to finally heal’ from decades of civil war, and the rule of the elite.

In those ranks of over a million protesters, the front lines are made up of women – from all walks of life.

Women quickly became instrumental in the demonstrations on day one of the protests; when a minister’s bodyguard began shooting into the sky during tense clashes, only to be met by an unarmed young Lebanese woman who kicked him in the groin. The incident was filmed and turned into a viral illustration.

Dayna, an activist and the ‘Director of Haven for Artists’ – an NGO that fosters a community of artists to advocate for Gender equality and LGBTQIA+ rights, was one of the first women on the frontline.

For the past fortnight she’s been handing out free water bottles, onions and first aid to those who had been tear gassed during the demonstrations.

Still, Dayna says tension is rising and breaking out where pro-government protesters have destroyed university tents, first aid centres and relief support services, in an attempt to deter the protesters.

The ‘front line of women’ have had a unified goal: fight for change – but keep these protests as peaceful as possible.

“The revolution is a woman and its brothers and sisters in arms are equally other marginalised individuals,” Dayna told The Feed.

We have deconstructed taboos, altered mentalities and shown camaraderie that has broken the barrier of fear.

These protests mark a chance for the women of Lebanon to write themselves a new future.

Women are highly oppressed by the current system – the country sits at 140 out of 14 on the Global Gender Gap. There are currently only six women in parliament.

Although Lebanon is considered more progressive than its neighbours, women still face a raft of laws that discriminate. The legal protections against marital rape, rape, sexual harassment and abuse are either non-existent or weak.

Additionally, current Lebanese nationality law remain heavily patriarchal, where women cannot pass Lebanese citizenship to their spouse or children.

Homosexuality is also still penalised with one year in jail – but this has not deterred LGBTQI activists from being vocal and taking to the front lines.

Dayna says she won’t stop sleeping in the street until Lebanese women are free.

We see change happening daily, from those that surround us altering chants, to women being treated as equals and partners.

“The revolution will not end until the government resigns so that we may build a unified country that can begin to build a Lebanon of equality, prosperity and economic stability.” 

Tania Safi
Nov 2019

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