From the roof of a ramshackle house, in a neighborhood eaten away by poverty that has spread like the plague in a village consumed by protests, the camera moves steadily and records a young civilian woman wrapped in her black cloak. Holding her 3-year-old child’s hand, she drags him behind her and walks angrily while she waves with the palm of her hand in the direction of a group of more than five mercenaries standing before her in the middle of the neighborhood. They are armed with shotgun shells and rubber bullets, toxic gas bombs and sticks, while her only weapon is her courage and her bitter cries that penetrate the unheard screams of female silence. With her pronounced rural accent, she shouts at them:
“This is not your land. You have slaughtered us, but by God, we will not take this lying down. We live and we die here. This is our land. We are Bahrainis.”
The sound of a shot fired at her could be heard. She answers, in a defiant tone: “I am not afraid. … God can see us. … We are martyrs … martyrs … “
A series of intense gunshots are fired at her this time. She keeps shouting, “I am not scared. We are martyrs.” Cautious women who are wrapped in their black cloaks stand at the side of the road in front of a house, with their voices resonating in the streets. The walls of the house are painted with blurred traces of protest slogans and demands that have been washed off to hide their content. The shooting persists and the camera that is mounted on the balcony shakes and reels backward, then continues its work.
In a broken Arabic accent, a mercenary orders the woman to go back to the house: “Go inside, go inside, I said go inside!” Of course, he wants her to go back to the house and remain there. However, she answers him challengingly, “I won’t go in!”
If we look into the underlying significance of this scene and its expression of political action, we realize that it does not mean anything at all to women, who sit in their homes and their closed rooms gossiping. Such women in power and supporters of the regime have become an integral part of the system of dominance and authoritarianism and the justification of oppression and its effects. Moreover, for some, the protests of this young woman do not amount to real, effective political action, according to the standard conceptions of politically “enabling women.” Why? Because they are captives to seclusion in their own political past that neither has no contact with the present nor the future. Herein lies the quandary.
However, there is another core quandary that lies in the fact that the person facing the young mother is one of the passing foreign mercenaries. The latter have assumed their desired locations, while they obey the higher authority in the streets filled with protests and practice systematic oppression anachronistically. They are attacking a woman who is practicing her freedom of expression and her right to “political protest” in the street. The mercenary actions might support “convictions” that reassure them. They think that this woman must not be allowed into the world of politics and men, and likewise must not participate in the protests and the revolution in the streets.
The mercenaries see this as chaos personified. Perhaps they are relying in their judgment on the theories of religious “extremists” (Let’s call a spade a spade).
Chaos is when social order is no longer respected, and protesting rebellious women do not abide by the sacred limits of knowing their place — something they breached by participating in the Arab Spring revolutions and demonstrations. We have followed the reactions to women’s participation when the same scene was repeated in all aspects of these revolutions. Women were killed, raped, whipped, beaten, arrested, slapped and insulted. This is exactly the kind of chaos that the Moroccan Fatema Mernissi described once, saying, “Every breach of limits will certainly lead to chaos and tragedy. In their minds, the limits are imaginary and do not exist except in the heads of people in power.” Moreover, the limits are set by people holding the sticks of oppression and tyranny!
According to the mercenaries, women are intruders when they are present in protests. Mercenaries, their representatives and supporters consider women “enemies.” Furthermore, the cries of women in public places (the streets of protests) are considered in themselves a direct attack that necessitates a response, especially since the repercussions of such acts do not only shake the political regime, but also the social order. Their behavior goes against laws, legislations and symbols. It is a direct attack that must be addressed to maintain security and stability.
The role of mercenaries is not limited to maintaining security by arresting women, shooting at them and attacking them with toxic gases, as well as insulting them and calling them names. Mercenaries implement social control through giving orders, launching prohibitions and shouting at women (whether veiled or not) to silence them.
Translated by Al-Monitor