Time and location

Monday, 15 October 2018, 19:00 - 21:00
Central Library Vienna - Am Gürtel, Urban-Loritz-Platz 2a, 1070 Vienna


Safa Belghith
freelance journalist, Tunisia

Lena Meari
Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University, Palestine

Omaima Abou-Bakr
Cairo University and Women and Memory Forum, Egypt

Chair: Helmut Krieger, University of Vienna/VIDC
Welcome: Sybille Straubinger, VIDC

Languages: English and German with simultaneous interpretation

Registration: seewald@remove-this.vidc.org

Unheard of? Women's movements in the Arab world

"Don't categorize me" Foto © Mona Abaza
"Don't categorize me" Foto © Mona Abaza


Despite the Arab world being predominantly associated in Europe with jihadism, war and refuge, its activists, intellectuals and artists are rarely seen or heard here. This applies even more to feminist and gender-critical initiatives from the Arab world. With European stereotypes of patriarchal societies and anti-Muslim racism, women's political views, alternative narratives, and perspectives from Arab societies are often silenced and with them their hopes, doubts, assessments, and analyses.

The diversity of feminist and gender-critical initiatives in times of crisis and war is the starting point of this panel discussion. Questions which will be discussed with activists and academics from different generations are: how do various feminist and gender-critical initiatives assess their developments in recent years? How do these actors relate to the respective authoritarian, repressive state? What is the relationship between Islamic and so-called ‘secular’ women initiatives? How important is this line of division? How can a common ground for basic political demands be found for the entire region? Which conflicts between feminist, women's and gender policy actors in Europe are necessary and what kind of cooperation is possible?



Safa Belghith

is an International Relations graduate from the Higher Institute of Human Sciences at Al-Manar University in Tunis where the focus of her research thesis is Media, Public Opinion and Politics. She also has a degree in English Linguistics, Literature and Civilization from the University of Manouba. Safa co-directs the professional and academic program “The Tunis Exchange”, bringing together participants from around the world to discuss the key issues facing Tunisia and the wider region. She also works as a freelance journalist, interpreter and research consultant on issues related to Tunisian politics, women’s rights and Transitional Justice. She is currently undertaking journalistic training with openDemocracy’s Middle East Forum team.

Lena Meari

is an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Director of the Institute of Women’s Studies at Birzeit University, Palestine. Lena has a special interest in the geopolitics of knowledge production; subject formation in colonial contexts; decolonizing methodologies; critical feminist theory; and revolutionary movements. Her publications include “Sumud: A Palestinian Philosophy of Confrontation in Colonial Prisons”, “Re-signifying `Sexual` Colonial Power Techniques: The Experiences of Palestinian Women Political Prisoners”, and the co-edited book “Rethinking Gender in Revolutions and Resistance: Lessons from the Arab World”.

Omaima Abou-Bakr

is a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cairo University; a founding member of “The Women and Memory Forum;” and a board member of Musawah and its Knowledge Building team. Her scholarly interests also include feminist theology, Muslim women’s history, and gender issues in Islamic discourses. One of her publications is an edited Reader that contains translations into Arabic of foundational articles in Christian feminist theology and Islamic feminist research: “Al-niswiyyah wa-al-dirasat al-diniyah: Feminism and Religious Studies” (2012). More recent publications are two edited volumes of collected articles: “Feminist and Islamic Perspectives: New Horizons of Knowledge and Reform”(2013) and “al-Niswiyyah wa-al-Wanzur al-Islami” (2013). 

Helmut Krieger

is a social scientist and research associate at the Institute for International Development at the University of Vienna as well as a consultant for the VIDC. His research focuses on the Israel-Palestine conflict, movements of political Islam in the Arab World, Critical State Theories, and post-colonial theory building. Recent publications include: as an editor „Food Sovereignty and Alternatives Development in Palestine! (2018), as co-editor “Krise, Revolte und Krieg in der arabischen Welt“ (2017) as well as the essays “Das Ende der Hoffnung: Revolten in der arabischen Welt als diskontinuierlicher Prozess“ (2015) and “Syrien – Aufstand, Krieg und Flucht“ (2016). He is also the Austrian project coordinator for the APPEAR project “Rooting Development in the Palestinian Context“, a cooperation between the University of Vienna, Birzeit University in the West Bank, and the Al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip.