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Adrien K. Wing*








* Bette & Wylie Aitken Distinguished Visiting Professor at Chapman University School of Law, Fall 2011 and Bessie Dutton Murray Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law; A.B. Princeton; M.A. University of California, Los Angeles; J.D. Stanford.

This lecture was presented at University of California, Davis School of Law (U.C. Davis School of Law) on September 27, 2011 as part of the annual Speaker Series of the U.C. Davis Journal of International Law & Policy. This year the series was entitled “Human Rights, Transitional Justice and Emerging Democratic Movements in the Middle East and North Africa.” The California International Law Center (CILC) at U.C. Davis School of Law was also a cosponsor of this event. The draft was presented at the Chapman faculty workshop as well, and I would like to thank my colleagues there. Versions of this lecture were also presented at the Latino Critical Legal Studies Conference, the University of Windsor (Canada) Law School, the Orange County Bar Association International Law Committee, Florida State University Study Centre (London), University of New Mexico Law School, and UCLA Law School. This Essay draws upon Adrien K. Wing & Peter Nadimi, Muslim Women’s Rights in the Age of Obama, 20 TRANSNAT’L L. & CONTEMP. PROB. 431 (2011); and Adrien K. Wing & Hisham Kassim, After the Last Judgment: the Future of the Egyptian Constitution, 52 HARV.

INT’L L. J. ONLINE 301 (2011), http://www.harvardilj.org/2011/04/online_52_wing_kassim.

Many thanks to my research assistants at the University of Iowa: Hasti Barahmand, Dominique Booker, Warner Brockett, Malick Djiba, Sara Ghadiri, Alexandra Hemenway, Julie Mehta, Luke Stauffer, and Marie Sullivan. I would also like to thank Dean Kevin Johnson and CILC Director Professor Anupam Chander at U.C. Davis School of Law, as well as lecture commentator Professor Suad Joseph of the U.C. Davis Anthropology and Women’s Studies Department, and the Journal staff.


–  –  –


The world was in shock and awe in the winter of 2010 when Tunisia, a small North African country, was able to remove its twenty-three-year leader President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali from power in less than a month—and with relatively little violence.1 The spark that set off this remarkable event was the self-immolation of a young man, a twenty-six year old fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi.2 The local police in his small town prohibited him from selling produce as a means to eke out a poor living.3 Shockingly, rather than accepting this fate, Bouazizi set fire to himself. The acts of the Tunisian police had violated Bouazizi’s basic human dignity and revealed the hopelessness of a corrupt system in which he could see no future.

Bouazizi’s bold final act touched off a firestorm of activity throughout the Middle East and North Africa—and ignited global attention.4 Tunisia was an unlikely birthplace as a catalyst for revolution and change. It was a favorite playground of European tourists with warm weather, self-contained seaside resorts, fantastic Roman ruins, and sizzling hot sands made famous by the Star Wars movies.5 It is not a nation that is immediately associated with warriors on the battlefield. I have visited this beautiful country several times, and it always brings to mind the smell of jasmine. This national flower is often sold even in small restaurants. Men regularly place it behind their ears and people accept it in the form of fragrant garlands. As homage to this national symbol, the recent events taking place in Tunisia are often referred to in popular media outlets as the Jasmine revolution.6 This unforeseen revolution and the subsequent revolutions it inspired in other countries have created an unprecedented opportunity for greater See Mona Eltahawy, Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, WASH. POST (Jan. 15, 2011), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/14/AR2011011405084.html.

Tunisia Suicide Protester Mohammed Bouazizi Dies, BBC WORLD NEWS (Jan. 5, 2011), http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12120228.


Yasmine Ryan, The Tragic Life of a Street Vendor, ALJAZEERA (Jan. 20, 2011), http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/01/201111684242518839.html.

See official site of the Tunisian National Tourist Office in London, http://www.cometotunisia.co.uk/.

Elizabeth Arrott, Lisa Bryant & Henry Ridgwell, Tunisians Mourn Losses in Jasmine Revolution, VOICE AMERICA (Jan. 21, 2011), OF http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/world/Tunisians-Mourn-Loses-in-JasmineRevolution-114390324.html.

WING-MACRO.DOCX 10/25/2012 2:17 PM 2012] The “Arab Fall” 447 regional grassroots movements seeking democracy and greater respect for human rights. The Arab world, as conceptualized by popular media in comprising the diverse nations of the Middle East and North African region, cannot move forward as a whole unless men and women experiencing oppression are able to participate freely in their own governance and development. As someone who has specialized in women’s rights in this region for nearly thirty years, I am particularly concerned that females in the region will be able to benefit from the changes that may take place.7 While See Adrien K. Wing, Critical Race Feminism in the Age of the War Against Terrorism,


IN A GLOBAL WORLD 91 (Barbara Pozzo ed., 2009); Adrien K. Wing, A Critical Race Feminist Conceptualization of Violence: South African and Palestinian Women, in GLOBAL CRITICAL RACE FEMINISM: AN INTERNATIONAL READER 332 (Adrien Wing ed., 2000);

Adrien K. Wing & Hisham Kassim, Founding Mothers for a Palestinian Constitution, in CONSTITUTING EQUALITY 290 (Susan H. Williams ed., 2009); Adrien K. Wing, Palestinian Women and Human Rights, in 3 WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS: A REFERENCE GUIDE 567 (Dorean Koenig & Kelly Asken eds., 2001); Adrien K. Wing, The War against Terror: Religion, Clothing, and the Human Right to Peace, in ACTIVATING HUMAN RIGHTS AND PEACE (Bee Chen Goh et al eds., 2012); Adrien K. Wing, Women, Gender and International Conventions, in 2 ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WOMEN AND ISLAMIC CULTURES, FAMILY LAW, & POLITICS 306 (Suad Joseph ed., 2005); Adrien K. Wing & Samuel Nielson, An Agenda for the Obama Administration on Gender Equality: Lessons from Abroad, 107 MICH.

L. REV. FIRST IMPRESSIONS 124 (2009)[hereinafter An Agenda], available at http://www.michiganlawreview.org/firstimpressions/vol107/wing&nielson.pdf; Adrien K.

Wing, Critical Race Feminism and The International Human Rights of Women in Bosnia, Palestine, and South Africa: Issues for Lat-Crit Theory, 28 MIAMI INTER-AMERICAN L. REV.

337 (1997); Adrien K. Wing & Monica Nigh Smith, Critical Race Feminism Lifting the Veil?:

Muslim Women, France and the Headscarf Ban, 39 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 743 (2006); Adrien K.

Wing, Constitutionalism, Legal Reform, and the Economic Development of Palestinian Women, 15 TRANSNAT’L L. & CONTEMP. PROB. 655 (2006) [hereinafter Constitutionalism];

Adrien K. Wing, A Critical Race Feminist Conceptualization of Violence: South African and Palestinian Women, 60 ALBANY L. REV. 943 (1997); Adrien K. Wing, Custom, Religion and Rights: The Future Legal Status of Palestinian Women, 35 HARV. J. INT'L L. 149 (1994);

Adrien K. Wing & Hisham Kassim, The Future of Palestinian Women’s Rights: Lessons from a Half Century of Tunisian Progress, 64 WASH. & LEE L.J. 1551 (2007) [hereinafter Tunisian Progress]; Adrien K. Wing & Samuel Nielson, Gaza, Gender, and the Age of Obama, 36 RUTGERS L. REC. 150 (2009); Adrien K. Wing, Global Critical Race Feminism: A Perspective on Gender, War and Peace in the Age of the War on Terror, 15 MICH. ST. J. INT’L L. 1 (2007); Adrien K. Wing, Global Critical Race Feminism Post 9-11: Afghanistan, 6 WASH. U. J.L. & POL’Y 19 (2002); Adrien K. Wing & Hisham Kassim, Hamas, Constitutionalism, and Palestinian Women, 50 HOWARD L. J. 480 (2007); Adrien K. Wing &

Ozan Varol, Is Secularism Possible in a Majority-Muslim Country in the Post 9/11 World?:

The Turkish Example, 42 TEXAS J. INT’L L. 1 (2007); Wing & Nadimi, Muslim Women’s Rights in the Age of Obama, supra note *; Adrien K. Wing, Palestinian Women and Human Rights in the Post 9-11 World, 24 MICH. J. INT’L L. 421 (2002); Adrien K. Wing & Shobhana Kasturi, The Palestinian Women's Charter: Beyond the Basic Law, THIRD WORLD LEGAL STUD. 141 (1994-1995); Adrien K. Wing, Palestinian Women: Their Future Legal Status, 16(1) ARAB STUD. Q. 55 (1994); Adrien K. Wing, Polygamy from Southern Africa to Black WING-MACRO.DOCX 10/25/2012 2:17 PM

448 University of California, Davis [Vol. 18:2

some women took unprecedented public roles during revolutionary moments, others experienced a cultural backlash, as well as governmentsponsored discrimination and abuse. This Essay examines the current sociopolitical status of women in the Arab world throughout the “Arab Spring” and “Fall”, and proposes the need for people in other countries, in particular the United States, to take a more active grassroots and dynamic crosscultural approach to promoting women’s rights in the region.

Part II of this Essay will provide some background and insights into several national movements that have been inspired by the Jasmine Revolution in 2011;8 the primary emphasis of this Essay, however, is on events and social transformations taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.

Part III of this Essay focuses on the turbulent status of women in these nations.9 While some women were able to speak out, organize and participate in revolutionary activities, many others may have been unable to become involved, or even harassed or arrested for their involvement.

Part IV of the Essay will propose the need for the United States to take a more dynamic, democratically engaged role in enhancing women’s rights, and will suggest a series of both short and long term efforts.10 These initiatives may not be possible in an U.S. election year in a restrained global economy. No doubt that after the election, the need will remain. Part V concludes that the future of women’s rights continues to be uncertain and that 2012 may not represent a year of significant measurable advancements for women’s rights in the region.11 In fact, some electoral victories by more conservative, traditional Islamist parties may indicate certain political setbacks for women’s rights this year.


The Jasmine revolution ignited with such force that it quickly spread to other parts of the region—most notably, Egypt.12 This country carries the Britannia to Black America: Global Critical Race Feminism as Legal Reform for the TwentyFirst Century, 11 J. CONTEMP. LEGAL ISSUES 811 (2001) [herinafter Polygamy]; Adrien K.

Wing & Sylke Merchan, Rape, Ethnicity & Culture: Spirit Injury From Bosnia to Black America, 25 COLUM. HUM. RTS. L. REV. 1 (1993); Adrien K. Wing, Twenty-First Century Loving: Gender Equality in the Muslim World, 76 FORDHAM L. REV. 2895 (2008) [hereinafter Twenty-First-Century Loving].

See infra notes 12-41 and accompanying text.

See infra notes 42-118 and accompanying text.

See infra notes 119-27 and accompanying text.

See infra note 128 and accompanying text.

Paul Salem, How Tunisia's revolution transforms politics of Egypt and region, L.A.

TIMES (Jan. 29, 2011), http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/01/arab-worldhow-tunisia-revolution-changed-politics-of-egypt-and-region-.html.

WING-MACRO.DOCX 10/25/2012 2:17 PM 2012] The “Arab Fall” 449 cultural mantle of the Arab world, with several thousand years of rich history and culture.13 The thirty-year President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, appeared to aspire to the reign of the greatest pharaoh, Ramses II, whose monuments can still be seen throughout the country some three thousand years later.14 The fall of Mubarak thus marked a truly momentous occasion across the Arab world. Most significantly, the internet activity of the “Facebook generation,”15 along with the support of the military, as well as massive labor and community organizing, managed to achieve Mubarak’s fall in an astonishingly short period of time.16 Egypt’s uprising included the efforts of both men and women, from all different socio-economic spheres, who held a variety of social and political opinions.17 This diverse pool of citizens united to achieve a common goal—to remove Mubarak from power, and to implement a democracy capable of addressing national issues such as poor education, rising agricultural prices, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the inadequate quality of social services and support.18 Tunisia’s revolution and Mubarak’s overthrow fostered the assumption that the rest of the Arab world would follow suit – with dictators and repressive regimes falling like dominos.19 However, this assumption was premature. Some kingdoms, such as Morocco and Jordan, have engaged in limited political reform.20 Saudi Arabian officials chose to appease Saudi citizenry by preemptively paying millions of dollars to young and Mark Tutton, Egypt’s Cultural Influence Pervades Arab World, CNN WORLD (Feb.

12, 2011), http://articles.cnn.com/2011-02-12/world/egypt.culture.influence.film_1_arabcountries-youssef-chahine-egypt-and-lebanon?_s=PM:WORLD.

See Ramses 2, LOOKLEX ENCYCLOPAEDIA, http://i-cias.com/e.o/ramses_2.htm.

John D. Sutter, The Faces of Egypt’s ‘Revolution 2.0’, CNN WORLD (Feb. 21, 2011), http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/02/21/egypt.internet.revolution/index.html (Facebook and other tech-savvy activists communicated over the internet starting even before the specific protests related to Mubarak, with one of their activities including organizing the "We Are All Khaled Said" Facebook page in honor of a young man beaten to death by the police).



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