Skip to main content

International Women's Day marked across the Middle East

From protests to calls for action, women across the Middle East and North Africa mark International Women’s Day
Women in Istanbul mark international Women's Day (Screengrab/Twitter)

Across the Middle East, women have marked International Women's Day by rallying in public spaces and calling for greater equality and freedom.

MEE takes a look at some of the events and calls for action that have taken place across the region:

In Istanbul, hundreds of women gathered to mark International Women's Day despite a strong police ban and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Many carried signs, waved flags and chanted slogans demanding greater freedoms for women. 

Some of the signs bore slogans such as "justice for women" and "feminist rebellion". 

In Algeria, women gathered in the capital Algiers to call for an end to the Algerian family code, which some critics say renders women second class citizens, as it makes them financially and socially dependent on their husbands or fathers. 

In Jerusalem, uniformed Israeli police raided a women's centre in the Al Tur neighbourhood. An exhibition celebrating Palestinian heritage and identity was taking place to mark Internal Women's Day. 

In the video, one of the women wearing a traditional Palestinian embroidered dress says, "Are we not even allowed to wear Palestinian clothing?"

On social media, many used the hashtag #InternationalWomensDay to highlight the work of human rights activists and women’s rights defenders. 

Others used the hashtag to remember women who lost their lives for doing their work or campaigning for women's rights. 

To mark the date, over 160 members of parliament from across Europe signed a joint statement highlighting the plight of female Saudi human rights defenders and their struggle for equality. 

The statement, which was organised by the human rights organisation ALQST, was signed by parliamentarians from Germany, the UK, and Ireland. 

According to the statement, despite the Saudi kingdom lifting some restrictions on women, there are still many challenges that remain in place. 

"The male guardianship system - a legal framework that treats women as minors - continues to negatively affect all aspects of women’s lives and severely restricts their fundamental liberties. 

"Women cannot yet therefore freely make decisions about their education, employment, health or who they want to marry; neither can they pass their nationality on to their children," the letter states. 

The statement also calls on Saudi authorities to immediately release all women who were detained for their human rights activism. Amongst some of the demands made is the abolishment of the male guardianship system and the removal of practices that discriminate against women. 

"We reiterate our call on the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release from prison all women detained for their human rights activism, to drop all charges against them and compensate them fairly. 

"We further ask that the released women human rights defenders are granted their right to free movement and are able to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of reprisals."

British parliamentarians that signed the joint statement include Kevin Brennan from the Labour Party, Kenny MacAskill from the Scottish National Party and Layla Moran from the Liberal Democrat Party.