The 2011 Bahraini Uprising: Women’s Agency, Dissent and Violence

Authored by: Samyah Alfoory

Categories: Human Rights
Sub-Categories: National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Nonviolent Resistance, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
Country: Bahrain
Region: Middle East and North Africa
Year: 2014
Citation: Alfoory, Samyah. The 2011 Bahraini Uprising: Women's Agency, Dissent and Violence. Washington, DC: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, 2014. Accessed January 19, 2016.

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Executive Summary

This paper takes a gendered analysis of the case of Bahrain’s 2011 uprising beyond examining women’s role in the uprising. It analyzes not only women in the grassroots, pro- democracy and human rights movement but also women who occupy an official capacity and who act to further the regime’s anti-democratic and violent actions. It intends to show women in a variety of capacities: as agents of the uprising, as victims of political repression, and as agents of that same political repression. It will look closely at instances where these different roles women occupy meet; a policewoman and a protestor, an activist and a regime spokesperson and discuss the regime’s methods for repression and violence. The analysis reveals that the idea that ‘Bahraini women’ as a unit played a singular role in the uprising is inaccurate. In fact, women’s roles in a political crisis are varied, contradictory and complex. Women can be agents of change whose methods of participation are unique and different from one another. In Bahrain, women activists helped provide the movement with a solid and united base. But women can also work against progressive aims in order to maintain the status quo and as wielders of a particularly gendered form of repression and violence against other women. Women’s political participation is therefore multi-dimensional; different groups of women participate in a crisis depending on their background, experiences and choices. These findings run against the assumption that women in general are peaceful, that Arab women are passive, that Arab Gulf women are apathetic and that Bahraini women played a singular role in the uprising. They importantly show women as agents of progress, struggle and oppression.