American TIME magazine chose “the protester”, as the 2011 Person of the Year, however there is no harm in developing this idea, particularly as we are now surveying the harvest of the past year, in order to say that the 2011 Person of the Year was the “female protester”.
There can be no doubt that the protester, especially the Arab protester, deserves to be celebrated. Yet, Arab revolutions are taking worrying and frightening detours with regards to restricting liberties, instead of expanding them, particularly with regards to the status of women. The Arab women, or rather the Arab female protesters, have taken themselves and the world by surprise with regards to the degree of their involvement in the revolutions. As journalists and media representatives, we must contemplate the female protester in order to see why she well deserves to be named 2011 Person of the Year. The Arab Spring would have not bloomed without the female protester challenging the authorities and suffering real physical harm; the female protester has shown that she is a genuine force to be reckoned with, and will not accept being relegated to the side-lines, or the kitchen! This was clear to see when some religious extremists confronted a demonstration in Tunisia demanding women rights.
The female protester was at the forefront of the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and Syria. She confronted the security troops in Tunisia, slept out in the open in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, stood at the heart of the battle to overthrow the regime in Libya, distributed [anti-government] leaflets in Syria, resisted the calls that she return to the kitchen in Yemen, and took the lead in the demonstrations in Bahrain.
However we have already begun to see a number of disappointing failures in the Arab Spring states. Have women fought the battle for freedom in order to lose even the simple gains they made under these dictatorial regimes?
Those women and youths, veiled or unveiled, were more afraid than any other to take to the streets, however they overcame this fear, and it will be a difficult task to convince them to return to the kitchen. Nevertheless, we hear female activists and others today expressing their fears for the future of women’s rights in the Arab world, and such fears are justified whilst we see women being beaten, assaulted, dragged on the ground, and subject to virginity testing, as occurred in Egypt. Indeed, this happened in the same streets where female protesters risked their lives to demand freedom! Our worries are justified, particularly now that some of those who rode the wave of revolution have begun to call for legislation legalizing polygamy, as was the case in Libya.
There are many causes for concern today, and so it is justifiable and even necessary that we name the female protester as the 2011 Person of the Year, and indeed the 2012 Person of the Year, as well. By making such a choice, this is more than just a linguistic play on words, rather it is is an expression of the dire need for political, media and cultural support for women. Such a choice is meant to highlight those who are now seeking to undermine the position and role of women.
Therefore, let us name the female protester the 2011 Person of the Year before it is too late and before she becomes the victim of the year.