Women’s voices from the Anti-Sectarianism Demonstration: “The revolution starts with us”

By Hisham Achkar

Sunday, February 27, witnessed the first sparks of the Revolution Against Sectarianism in Lebanon. An estimated 3,000 people took to the streets to protest against the sectarian regime. Despite the dreadful weather, they were all there, shouting in the name of freedom.

People came from different regions of Lebanon under heavy rains to express their rage against the system they are living in. Their voice was louder than any storm.

 

Aida and her husband Hussein came from Damour with their 11 year-old child to support the cause. “When we heard about the protest, we were very excited to join,” Aida said. “The stormy weather didn’t stop us. Actually, this storm was a kind of a small challenge compared to what we, the Lebanese people who are claiming to want to end the sectarian system, will encounter in order to reach our goal.”

 

The protesters were from different ages and from different backgrounds, but they were all united by their strive towards change. The demonstration was strengthened by the notable presence of women, who were as numerous as men. They were all filled with energy, hope and revolutionary ideas.

 

Raghida Hashem, mother of three, was very clear about her vision: “Women are the key to this revolution. We, as mothers, have a duty towards Lebanon. We must raise our children against the current system. My three kids are with me today because they need to learn how to fight for themselves. The revolution starts with us,” she continued, shouting, “and we should all encourage our kids, the citizens of tomorrow, to fight against racism and sectarianism.”

 

Samira, a 45 year-old housewife, agreed, explaining that she participated in the protest because she wants a better future for her kids, where they won’t have to face any kind of discrimination or racism.

 

Dalal Al Barazi, a writer and a researcher, targeted the rampant corruption and abuse as motivating her to demonstrate. “All Lebanese people must join this protest,” she said, “because we need to make a change. The situation is becoming unbearable.”

 

Despite the rains, the crowd was generally euphoric. Laura Asmar, an AUB student, was very optimistic about the situation. She believes that that more than half of the Lebanese people want to end this regime, but that they didn’t attend the protest because they are hopeless. “Today,” she added, “we are showing these people that they shouldn’t lose hope and that they are not alone. Hopefully, in the next protest, some of them will break their silence and join us. And this is how we will end the sectarian system.”

 

Rouwaida Mroueh, a 24 year-old activist, saw this and future protests as a way to show the world – and other Lebanese – that the Lebanese people don’t only respond to the calls of the politicians. “We are not all followers,” she said, “some of us can think by ourselves.”

 

But it was Nour Fawaz, 6 months pregnant, who best demonstrated the protesters’ dedication to the bringing down the sectarian system. She walked the entire length of the demonstration with only her umbrella protecting her from the heavy rain, she explained, because she refuses to give birth to a child in a country where he will be judged according to his religion. “He doesn’t even get to choose his religion,” Nor explained, “he is born with a predetermined religion and then he has to suffer because of it.”

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