Islamists hijack Arab Spring, says scholar
İpek Yezdani ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Dr Arfaoui expresses fears on the Islamists rise in Arab Spring nations. DAILY NEWS photoThe rise of Islamist parties in the Arab Spring countries has frightened Arab women who fear losing their rights as the movements “hijack” the revolutions that overthrew long-time dictators.
“Women in Tunisia are living in fear that their previously gained rights might be lost during the rule of the Islamist Ennahda Party, because even though they say that they are moderate Islamists … they excuse all the violence that the Salafis are committing,” Dr. Khadija Arfaoui, a member of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women and a prominent intellectual, told the Hürriyet Daily News in yesterday.
In short, the revolution in Tunisia has been “hijacked by the Islamists,” she said on the sidelines of an Istanbul conference titled “Women’s Empowerment in Economic, Social and Political Transformation of the Middle East,” which was organized by the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGİDER).
Arfaoui, who is also a professor at the Women’s Studies and Human Rights at the Higher Institute of Languages in Tunis, blamed the ruling Ennahda Party for turning a blind eye to the actions of the radical Islamist Salafis in Tunisia.
Tunisians overthrew their ruler in January. In an Oct. 25 election, the Islamist Ennahda party took the most votes and formed a new government with two left-wing parties. Arfaoui said she personally relayed her concerns to the leader of the Ennahda Party, Rached Ghannouchi, a couple of months ago.
“When Salafis see women without headscarves on the streets, they attack them with cudgels. They use violence toward female artists and intellectuals, and the Ennahda Party does nothing about them,” Arfaoui said.
Arfaoui also said many Tunisians were afraid to agree with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when the Turkish leader visit staged a visit to the country and expressed his support for secularism.
“[This is] because secularism is [viewed] as atheism in Tunisia,” she added.
Arfaoui was sentenced to eight months in jail because of a Facebook message she forwarded in 2009during the rule of toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Tunisia’s newly elected president, Moncef Marzouki, sent a letter of support to her during her time in jail; at the time, Marzouki was a leading human rights activist.
‘Jordanian women also fear Islamists’
Arab women in Jordan, meanwhile, have had little presence at protests in the Hashemite kingdom out of fear of eventually helping the country’s Islamists come to power, according to Dr. Lina Shabeeb, a human rights activist and deputy dean at the Faculty of Law at the University of Jordan. “The protests in Jordan are different from the protests in other Arab countries. People want the corruption and the system to be changed rather than the change of the ruler. And female Jordanians don’t see this as a necessary war. They think we already have many equal rights with men, we are already in the social arena, in business life, universities [and more],” Shabeeb told the Daily News yesterday while attending the KAGİDER summit.
“Female Jordanians fear that Islamists would come to power and that they will be deprived of their rights,” she said.