wow: women standing for rights in the middle east and north africa

wow: women standing for rights in the middle east and north africa

In this week’s installation of Women on Wednesday, I highlight a few examples of women from the Middle East and North Africa engaging their nudity as a stand for political, social and religious freedom.

“And Still I Rise”

This video is of Maryam Namazie, and Iranian activist who connects women’s rights to discussions around Islam, politics, secularism, free expression and more. She also conducts a whole other host of work around the world. You can read her biography here:

Excerpt from her post on March 8, 2015 related to the video above for that year’s International Women’s Day:

So yes I am a free woman. I am a Kafir. Je Suis Charlie, Neda, Avijit, Salwa, Sadiq, Sameera, Rafiq, Monir, Katia*… the innumerable slaughtered over many decades in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

But still I rise.

I am, we are, Islamism’s greatest threat – a women’s liberation movement that will bring them – from ISIS to the Saudi and Iranian regimes – to their knees.


Nude Protest for International Women’s Day

This video is footage of the Nude Protest for International Women’s Day in March 2014 in Paris, France, in front of the Louvre.

Maryam Namazie participated in this protest with other women from several countries in the Middle East and North Africa (e.g. Egypt and Iran as referenced in the video above).

The main chant for the protest :

Liberté: Freedom

Égalité: Equality

Laïcité: Secularism

In this brief video clip, women speak to creating solidarity amongst women in the Arab world, in the Islamic world. They say they are taking a stand against issues including Sharia law, sexism, stoning, the veil and more. They are promoting religious freedom, with one woman stating, “We must put religion aside and allow people to live as they want to live. No one has rights over my body. I am in charge of my body, I do what I want.”

From her original post on her participation in the protest, Namazie writes:

Today, 8 March, International Women’s Day, Amina Sboui, Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Solmaz Vakilpour, Safia Lebdi, Meriam Russel and myself protested nude in support of women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa at the Louvre in Paris.

I didn’t want to just hold the Islamic regime of Iran’s flag so I cut out the Allah in the centre of the flag and let it show my vagina instead. Much better, don’t you think?

We were arrested when 100 police converged on the area and took us away. We were released after several hours. 


One thing I wish to highlight is how the naked body becomes part of entire movements, standing for ideals such as freedom, equality, conquering oppression, and reclaiming agency. These posts and events might have been reported on during those years past, but I wanted to share them today, because seeing these women from the Middle East and North Africa engaging their nakedness to confront social, political and religious issues of concern to them was educational for me.

This also links back to a consideration I mentioned in my post for last week’s WOW installment, that if we are looking to see whether women are involved in clothes free living, we might not find answers to that under #naturism, #nudism #clothesfreelife. For some women, engaging their nakedness ties into other issues around their individual and collective rights. So, their activity is found in other categories and hashtags.

I would like to note that I, personally, don’t have any particular ties or sways on some of these issues at the moment. So, my sharing it here is not meant to speak ill or preferentially of any particular convictions. For instance, I have read and heard some women state that the veil is a source of power (among other important things) for them, and I respect that to be their truth and their choice. Rather, my interest in referencing these posts and videos here is to illustrate how women are engaging clothes freedom in various contexts for whatever is important to them. And at this particular point in time, when most of what I come across are topfree and clothes free movements in the United States and Europe, it was educational and encouraging for me to see women from Iran, Egypt and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East publicly engaging their clothes freedom for their particular passions and movements.

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