Writing in the Financial Times, Elif Shafak, Turkey’s best-selling female author, stresses that Middle Eastern women should not have to rely on authoritarian male leaders to advance their rights.
Despite the notion that female bodies are a battleground in the Middle East, both ideologically and physically, Elif notes that female adulation of male autocrats is widespread throughout the region. She believes that turning to autocrats for protection is a response born of fear, but why are Middle Eastern women so scared?
Elif suggests that “extremism and political violence can create a state of perpetual anxiety, in which patriarchs take on idol-like qualities for the seeming stability they offer, and women may turn a blind eye to human rights violations under their noses.” However, Elif believes there is a contradiction here, because “if we believe in one, we should fight for both.”
She believes that people must come together to bridge unnecessary division, because “as long as we allow such divisions to stand, all women in the Middle East will be weaker.” She goes on to propose that “what we require is a network and awareness of sisterhood that goes beyond national, ethnic, class, religious and sectarian boundaries. The whole world needs feminism, but at this moment in history, the Middle East needs it acutely.”
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