“From Serbia to Iran - the women’s struggle doesn’t stop.” “Woman. Life. Freedom.” - Feminist messages such as these can be seen on placards in countries in Southeastern Europe and Afghanistan, making it clear: Feminist solidarity knows no borders. Every activist has a different reason to take to the streets in order to protest on the issue of violence against women. But they are united in their feminist courage and they stand in solidarity with each other and their fellow demonstrators in other countries as they strive for a gender-equitable world.
Courageous protests in Iran, Afghanistan and South-eastern Europe
In Serbia, one current reason for women taking to the streets is an incident where a man has been accused of killing his two-year-old daughter. Evidently the man had previously threatened to do this so his wife reported him to the police, but they did not take his threat seriously. In cases like this, generally nobody is held accountable. And in the news it is then reported as “an unprecedented tragedy”. However, the number of cases of violence against women and girls in Serbia is extremely high, as it is in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This act of violence against a girl that has triggered the current protests in Serbia is actually just one example from many. The special circumstances of this one are simply that it occurred at a time when there is a feminist revolution in Iran. Courageous women in Iran have been protesting for weeks for their rights and for an end to violence against them. They are doing this in remembrance of Mahsa Amini, whose violent death triggered the protests. No longer are they able or willing to accept this oppression. This courage of Iranian women has been noticed, as can be seen in the clear and direct references to the country that are visible during demonstrations in Southeastern Europe or Afghanistan.
In spite of their own oppression and the restrictions of the Taliban regime, courageous women in Afghanistan have been protesting in front of the Iranian embassy. Their placards show the same words as those in Iran: “Woman. Life. Freedom.” It did not take long before the Taliban stopped the peaceful demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy.
Demands: Patriarchal spirals of violence have to stop!
Women no longer want to be robbed of their right to self-determination. This is true in South-east Europe, too. The spirals of patriarchal violence have to end. This feeling is connecting women across national borders, so similar demands can be seen in different countries: “Not one woman less.” Activists – including those from Medica Zenica, a partner organisation of medica mondiale – are demonstrating on the streets of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the same in neighbouring countries. They are demanding that the perpetrators of sexualised violence are brought to justice.
Criticism: The media are playing down violence against women.
They are also criticising the media, whose reporting is leading to a culture of impunity since they refuse to put the right name to the acts.
“So they are calling upon the media to stop reporting ‘another woman has been killed’ and start saying ‘another man has committed femicide’ instead. And they should stop claiming ‘an unprecedented tragedy has occurred’ and instead make it clear there is a continuum of patriarchal violence against women,”
reports Jovana Skrijel, Project Officer for South-east Europe at medica mondiale.
Similar positions are being voiced by activists in Serbia. There a tabloid newspaper gave an interview to a committed serial rapist. He was given space to elaborate on his fantasies of violence and describe how he felt during his criminal acts. The activists are calling for the interview to be deleted and for Serbian media to adopt an appropriate way of reporting on violence against women.
Visible feminist solidarity
These courageous feminist protests in various countries are clearly showing how solidarity among women is significant and visible. Women around the world are cutting off their hair symbolically or organising demonstrations calling for an end to violence against women. These feminist protests also show that women across borders are connected by their courage. Women. Life. Freedom.