The power of women protesters

uighur 2

As riot and paramilitary police flood the city of Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang region, Uighur women took to the streets in to protest the imprisonment of their husbands and loved ones.

Women in the market place burst into wailing and chanting as foreign reporters arrived on an official media tour of the riot zone, complaining that police had taken away Uighur men. Authorities have arrested 1,434 people in connection with Sunday’s unrest.

During the Iran election protests, the strong female presence captured the world’s attention and had people questioning if this was a revolution on the revolution. This blogger  , Alemayehu G. Mariam ,praises what he calls the courage of Iranian women and compares what happened to the 2005 Ethiopian elections.

Yesterday thousands of women took to the streets in the Egyptian city Alexandria to mourn and protest the Killing of Marwa-El Sherbini, who was stabbed to death in a court in Dresden.


If you want to take an example from the Civil Rights movement in the U.S , how about the inspirational example of Rosa Parks.rosa parks


And you’ve only got to look at Burma to see the iconic power of Aung San Suu Kyi, who yesterday was awarded yet another honorary degree.burma





And those of you with longer memories will remember  “Women for Peace ” in Northern Ireland – one of who’s founders is still campaigning. ireland peace

 Do women have a stronger impact on getting media attention and hence getting their message across?  Are authorities a little less willing to clamp down on them ?

24 Responses to “The power of women protesters”

  1. 1 Deryck/Trinidad
    July 8, 2009 at 10:25

    Importantly especially in countries or societies where women are seen as having a lesser role than men women protesters are very powerful because they defy the staus quo in those countries and challenge the pre- existing patriarchal structures.

    As a result they get more media coverage as people want to see what reaction the ruling establishment will take against them.

    Secondly women protesters are more powerful because it will be seen as an abuse of power if the riot police or army man-handle women as oppose to men.

  2. July 8, 2009 at 10:31

    Dear blogger,

    We are glad you linked our blog article on this post but you just said ” this blogger” I just let you know the writer of that article is Alemayehu G. Mariam, a professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles. For comments, he can be reached at almariam@gmail.com

  3. July 8, 2009 at 11:01

    Women protesters will get media attention only if the causes they represent fit in with the dominant Western political & media agenda, pro- Western global capitalism and anti- secular Chinese communism. It’s as simple as that.

  4. 4 Ezmet
    July 8, 2009 at 11:34

    First of all, I’m a uyghur man,well, in terms of talking about uyghur women had taken the protest onto the police-flooded streets in urumqi, you don’t know how much of the discontent they bear for a long time to the point no more is taken, unlike other muslims in Arab countries, we never ever approve of polygamy and we don’t have other customs that are in common, instead, women and men are the same. The only thing we uyghurs and arabs share in common is that we believe in Allah. In terms of their way of ruling or their rules, nothing apply to us. You know what, no other countries could help us out as chinese goverments so strong, we just want the whole world know that there are people called uyghur in that part of China who are turkic-speaking nation and have distinctive culture, we share nothing in common with the chinese in terms of language, writing, tradition, culture, you name it. We don’t want violence or bloodshed, we want peace. I think this unprecedented protest was triggered by the impotence of the chinese governments to fail to interfere the violence which was taken place in Shao guan in Guang dong province concerning the uyghur workers at a toy factory, thousands of thousands of chinese stormed into uyghur workers’ dorms to attck them. You can check it out how cruel a nation can be as chinese they are, go to youtube.com and type in ” uyghur worker” you will see some disturbing videos ever taken.

    • 5 Shunjing
      July 9, 2009 at 12:26

      China encourages women to take up leadership roles. Uighurs enter universities with half the marks needed to qualify. China’s policies to educate Uighurs so they can catched up with Han Chinese. but only girls succeed, guys prefer to be given big titles like economist. Many want simple work but expect high pay. They bite the hands that feed them.but only girls succeed, guys prefer to be trained by the Taliban to be Jihadist , a fact Gitzmo just release them.

  5. 6 patti in cape coral
    July 8, 2009 at 13:12

    I was going to make the same point that Deryck did, that it would be seen as an abuse of power to manhandle protesting women. I also remember Lubna’s beautiful quote, “Paradise is under the feet of mothers”. Hopefully, people will not fail to be moved, and it will remind people that what is done to one man will impact his wife and family as well.

    July 8, 2009 at 14:16

    It is correct for everyone to protest on the streets as long as life is not in danger. Though several cases have been given as an example above, circumstances may differ, and they do. In this instance it might be different because it was not a peaceful demonstration. Several Chinese people had been murdered by their countrymen. Whether the protesters are men or women does not call for automatic sympathy because a crime has been committed against innocent civilians who may have not participated in the said attack. These women seem to be supporting murderers and want to interfere with investigations.

    It is a cardinal duty for all protesters and security forces to observe human rights. They want to be heard – right? We did hear there’s such people but it was done in unacceptable manner. It also appears that these community considers itself to be alien and do not recognize Chinese authorities. In such a mix we ought to be careful on where to give support. First they should make their complaint heard to the outside world. There is no reason to be barbaric from the word go.

  7. 8 Tom K in Mpls
    July 8, 2009 at 14:47

    Call me sexist if you like, but as I see it, the difference between genders goes far beyond the obvious physical differences. For various reasons women are typically far less confrontational. Especially to the point of violence. So when a women stands strong in a non violent way, it creates more of an ‘ok, what now’ situation. A very clear attention getter. Backed by the press it is strong. If it isn’t ‘covered’ it becomes a case of ‘damn nutty women need to stay at home’.

    So then, the question to the press, what are you going to validate through coverage today? I hope it’s not the Jackson thing again.

  8. 9 Jennifer
    July 8, 2009 at 15:50

    I want to know why Neda’s crucifix cross was photoshopped in photos of her? 😦


  9. 10 Bert
    July 8, 2009 at 16:16

    The advantage women have, in protests such as the one in Urumqi, is that they cannot credibly be seen as being a physcial threat to the security forces. Therefore, the security forces cannot crack down against the women with the same force they would use against men, which allows the women’s message to be heard much more clearly, by the rest of the world.

    If the euphamisms are pealed aside, what’s going on in Urumqi are in essence race riots. The Uighur have the physical aspect of Turks. They look more like Europeans than like Chinese. And China is not a country known to “celebrate diversity,” or even pretending to.

  10. 11 Peter_scliu
    July 8, 2009 at 16:28

    The present leadership of China are from the moderates camp. Hu jintao is under pressure from the politburo’s hardliners. I hope the Uighurs don’t push to hard and end up like his mentor Zhoa ziyang and tanks start rolling in and women or men might just become pancakes.
    China will rather be dammed than give up any territories.

  11. 12 Peter_scliu
    July 8, 2009 at 16:33

    To prevent secession entails demographic manipulation. So different ethnic groups have to squeeze together . Some are more tolerant , some are xenophobic but all have a limit. British solved their problems in Australia and Canada by the migration of britishers to populate these area marginalising the natives. Till today Falklands and Girbralter still cannot seceed by popular votes because of a large British origin constituents. Clearly China is following British example. Only China had a
    Historical claim.

  12. 13 Tom D Ford
    July 8, 2009 at 17:06

    I remember seeing a cartoon of Dame Wales where she is holding onto the arm of a club wielding policeman and saying something like ” Wait a minute young man, you’re supposed to be keeping the peace, not breaking it!”

    I understand that “Dame Wales” is highly regarded for her protests about injustice.

    I wonder if the French “Marianne” is a similar icon, I suspect so.

    Here in the US we hold our gift from the French, The Statue of Liberty, as a beacon of our ideals.

    So, I wonder if anyone knows of the National Iconic Women of other countries, religions, cultures, tribes, etc and would list them here.

    We have a strange phenomenon here in the US in that Conservative Christians claim to worship Jesus as a “Savior” but reject his teachings of how to live and how to treat people because they see him as “feminized”, that is they reject womens’ values, the Jesus values, as a bad thing. It is a very very odd mental contradiction that they are somehow able to juggle in their minds.

  13. 14 Anthony
    July 8, 2009 at 17:22

    It really is hard to beat up a woman you don’t know, especially in public. That’s why women protesting is good.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  14. 15 nora
    July 8, 2009 at 17:43

    During the early 1960’s a group called WOMEN STRIKE FOR PEACE formed in the US. When I interviewed the founders, they told me that following the anti-communist witch hunts in the 1950’s, men could not demonstrate without losing their jobs, so women took on Strontium 90 in the milk, the Viet Nam war and nuclear containment.

    In my own experiences during the protests of the1970’s, women came more into leadership because we were not drafted as men were into the war. We wanted to forge peace and protect our men from our government, so we took to the streets.
    I took the same pepper gas, charging horses and intimidation as the men and it changed me. Equality in adversity.

    In Argentina in the 1980’s MOTHER OF THE DISAPPEARED changed politics forever by braving torture for the truth about their missing loved ones. They now have a female president, as does their neighbor Chile.

    Hopefully, women in Iran and China will help change their countries in a similar manner. I believe they are already on their way.

  15. July 9, 2009 at 05:49

    I was also going to make the same points as Deryck/Trinidad and Patti in Cape Coral.
    I just want to add this: For once, it’s good and useful not having equality. Protesting women use their stereotypical weakness as an advantage… although, I’ve seen footage of beaten women in the Iran protests.

  16. 19 viola
    July 9, 2009 at 06:45

    Perhaps women as a rule keep their heads down to avoid trouble so that when they do put themselves at risk a lot of people sit up and take notice, as in, “It must be really serious if the women are getting in it.”

  17. 20 Vijay Pillai
    July 9, 2009 at 11:30

    Women have been Prime Ministers from being housewives and the power transfered to them particulary in asia as a result of sympathy votes of lost husband or father who was in power. But Women of 21st centure is a new phenomyna.All due to western way of life where the democracy and their men have soft spot for women when it comes to violence against them.This is also due to men giving a greater say in running the families and their husbands allow women to play full role in govt.Mrs Thatcher a good example and her late husband a step behind her at Public meetings .Golder Meir another example.No doubt it was the time for similar role in usa which brought HIlary to be presidentical contender and now sec of state.What i admire is the women’s voice for democracy and freedom shown by Greenham Common anti nuclear protesters of CND in early 1980’s
    .These daring women brought a collapse of cold war in 1990 and 21st century women are everywhere leading the fight for freedom and democracy and a fairer society run mostly by evil men.

  18. July 9, 2009 at 13:07

    China should be Proud of its Achievement and economic Gain development which is not bypassed but passed on its Muslim Minority counterpart.Uighur Minority and Muslim Tibetans to Muslims across China in Xinchiang Xinigxia Xian Gansu and every Province and cities with Mosques with All ethnic Converts including Han converted Chinese Muslims enjoy peaceful living . In China of more than A Billion Chinese one percent Muslim will constitutes 12 million. But according to BBC early estimate 1.5% to 10% constituted upto 100 million Chinese Muslims by 1939 BBC estimate it was more than 50 million then and by 1940 BBC estimate or quote of official version it was more than 48 million then(given BBXC accuracy). This Also matched with the US Dept of State’s international Religion Freedom Report .They had put in the earliest days more than 20 millionMuslims in China. Chinese Muslims are everywhere .They seem as educated as progressive as local None Muslims Chinese in all Provinces as those Visiting Muslims of China reflects.Even Uighur in Unnan live in peace with Han Chinese. Even in Uighur East Turkistan or Xinchiang There seem to be 35,000 mosques (contrary to the projection as if progressive Crowd in the street are all Chinese None Muslims and Alqaida cap a hand full of few Central Asian Uighur are Muslims in China). This is Misleading.PM Hu Xiato of China and Govt of China can gain Instant recognition from world if honestly disclose and display Muslim Content on equal footing across China.

  19. July 9, 2009 at 20:04

    Readers might be interested in a prescient 2006 report that traces the history of Iranian women’s struggles for their rights. Iranian women have long allocated funds for women’s empowerment, by working with civil society groups, and by organizing workshops and educational programs. They are also leading in the use of electronic and mass media as part of their push for rights. Its key finding? “The struggle for women’s rights is fully intertwined with the larger struggle for democracy.” The report can be found at: http://www.huntalternatives.org/iran.cfm

  20. 23 Angie
    July 9, 2009 at 21:42

    I find it amusing that some have taken it upon themselves to legitimatize the actions that the Chinese government is taking upon the Uyghur people.

    It is a rather big deal for women to be taking a stand because we are viewing women through the patriarchal lense, which says that women should be quiet, “seen and not heard” and not involve themselves in the Man’s World, i.e. politics. They should be in the kitchen while their husbands are on the streets.

    For a woman to come “out of the kitchen” to protest then, is a bit unnerving. It shows that the unrest is not merely political– it is also domestic. It affects the family and involves the women.

    People here have already covered the aspect that it is considered horrible for a male to enact violence on a female, thus the women protesters pose an unique test to the riot police– do we hit them? do we treat them the same as we treat the males?

    One could say that women tend to more non-violent, and thus their protesting lends itself to being more peaceful.

    In mentioning brave women who have stood up for rights and so forth, one can’t forget the late Daniel Pearl’s wife, Mariane Pearl, who has traveled the globe after her husband’s death, and once specificially on the mission to find courageous women, which she detailed in a book for Glamour Magazine.

    In addition, one can’t talk about the Tibetan cause without mentioning Woeser, the Beijing blogger/poet who has spoken out for the Tibetan cause while living inside China.

  21. July 11, 2009 at 11:02

    Our planet is a primitive civilization. It is not surprising that this question is being asked. Women are the stronger gender they can do anything the other gender can and more.

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