Most conversations on war and women begin by categorizing the roles women assume—whether as combatants or providers of logistical support. However, the vast majority of women are victims, and they constitute the largest number of refugees. Syrian women are fleeing their homes not only because of fear for their lives and those of their children, but also because rape is being used as an instrument of war. Research on Iraqi refugees in Amman and in the United States demonstrates that women’s displacement is ongoing. Nonetheless, new situations allow women to renegotiate family roles, organizing, and activism. The overthrow of Mubarak has encouraged women to demand more autonomy for themselves, while a younger generation advocates for the right of women to inhabit public space without being sexually harassed. The discourse on women has changed, with popular TV talk shows now addressing taboos against survivors discussing assault and other forms of violence. The panelists will discuss these and issues.
Rola el-Husseini, currently a Researcher at MEMEAC, the Graduate Center, CUNY, will share research findings on Arab women recently reported to UN-ESCWA. Dr. el-Husseini has held positions at Texas A&M and Yale University. Her book is Pax Syriana: Elite Politics in Postwar Lebanon; other publications have appeared in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the Middle East Journal, Third World Quarterly and Orient.
Vickie Langohr, Associate Professor of Political Science at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester (MA), will discuss how women’s rights activism has changed in Egypt since the overthrow of Mubarak. Her article, “This Is Our Square: Fighting Sexual Assault at Cairo Protests,” was published recently in Middle East Report. Other works have appeared in Comparative Politics, the Journal of Democracy, Contemporary Studies in Society and History, the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and Middle East Report.
Isis Nusair, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and International Studies at Denison University (OH), will focus on the impact of war and displacement on Iraqi women refugees in Jordan and the US. Prof. Nusair has worked as a researcher on women’s human rights in the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch and at the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. She is the co-editor with Rhoda Kanaaneh of Displaced at Home: Ethnicity and Gender among Palestinians in Israel.
Jillian Schwedler, Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, will moderate the panel. Her books include Policing and Prisons in the Middle East with Laleh Khalili; Understanding the Contemporary Middle East with Deborah J. Gerner, and Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen.