Arab Women in Revolution: Reports from the Ground

Part: 14

Lebanon Protesters Take Aim at Family Law System

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In the third and latest major demonstration in Lebanon, protesters of the sectarian or "confessional" system took special aim at religious family laws that prevent civil marriages and discriminate against women in various ways.

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Up to 20,000 Protestors

The group estimated that nearly 20,000 Lebanese came out to protest the status quo, a number supported by Twitter users and bloggers. The news agency Agence France-Presse reported between 6,000 and 7,000.

One of the protest's early supporters is Ali Dirany, who helped coordinate some of the rally's logistics.

"You can call me romantic but I want to marry this woman in a healthy environment where she is treated as equally as I am," Dirany said, turning towards his girlfriend, as the two sat outside a coffee shop off of one of Beirut's main streets. "Every sort of law in the civil sector is unjust towards women."

In the two decades following its 15-year civil war, Lebanon has engaged in several economic growth projects and has one of the fastest growing economies in the region. With a population of just over 4 million, it does not suffer the same scale of poverty as its larger Arab neighbors.

The current political structure pits two major camps--one supported by the West and the other backed by Syria and Iran--against each other. Current party heads agree that now is not the time to challenge the system itself.

But with presidents ousted in Tunisia and Egypt, a U.N. "no-fly zone" and military intervention in Libya, a fired cabinet in Yemen and ongoing street-protest-related violence claiming the lives of thousands across the region, every society is feeling the ground shifting.

Beirut has been called the "Paris of the Middle East" since the 1960s for many reasons, including its Mediterranean beaches and culinary pleasures, but never for its revolutionary tendencies.

With help from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, regional neighbors in upheaval and people on the street eager to claim rights as individuals, that may all change.

Many Lebanese now seem eager to make the most of the revolutionary window that has opened.

"It's Lebanon's turn," said Dirany.

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Iman Azzi is a freelance journalist based in Beirut, Lebanon.

For more information:

Nasawiya Feminist Collective:
http://www.nasawiya.org/web/

Sawt al Niswa: A Feminist Webspace:
http://www.sawtalniswa.com/

Isqatalnizam (Fall of the Regime) Twitter Page:
http://twitter.com/isqatalnizam

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