Through the streets of the capital a silent march of women calling for the end of the siege and the beginning of life
by Camilla Forlani
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Tunis turned red. And green. And black. And white. The Palestinian flag was waved in every corner of the city along with hundreds of children’s shoes, which at the end of the march were donated to the Red Crescent. The association “Dar el-Umuma” – House of Maternity – invited women from all over the country to participate in a silent march through the streets of the capital which ended in front of the Municipal Theatre of Tunis.
Following the march, Marwa Chrif, among the organisers, told us more about the event, a march driven by anger and frustration, and yet, a silent march. “The reason why we decided to hold the march in silence – explains Marwa – is that we wanted the voices of the women of Gaza tone heard: that’s why we broadcasted the heartbreaking sentences that the women of Gaza uttered after losing their loved ones or being were forced to evacuate their homes. With our silence we wanted to give them a platform, to tell them “you are heard, we share your suffering, we cry with you, your children and your loved ones, we are here for you sisters.” The very name of the event takes up one of the most significant phrases said since the beginning of this massacre, pronounced by the mother of a little martyr killed during one of the Israeli attacks. “Place your heart on mine yamma.” Yamma in Arabic means “mother”, but in the Palestinian dialect it’s used by parents to show affection to their children.”
“The second reason why it was decided to march in silence – continues Marwa – is that, as you know, this was not the first protest that was held in Tunis: starting from October 7 Tunisians flooded the streets to protest, asking for a ceasefire, the end of the siege and the end of the occupation as well as the criminalisation of the normalisation of relationships with the Zionist entity… Millions of people around did to, but yet, they were listened to. The governments who support Israel in committing this genocide do not care about Palestinians lives nor about the opposition that millions of people have been showing to the daily massacres and ongoing ethnic cleansing. So, also as an act of protest, we decided to remain silent. The question we asked ourselves was: “will they perhaps pay attention to our silence?!”
The other, fundamental reason that led to choosing silence was by analogy, a sad analogy with “the weak voice of Western feminists” who – highlights Marwa – “are usually much more vocal, more present, more involved” – continues Marwa – “especially if we compare their commitment to supporting Iranian women last year with what they are doing now. It is outrageous for me, as a woman and as a feminist, to see how fade their protests are fade now! The atrocities that the women of Gaza are enduring are beyond words… C-sections without anaesthesia, removal of the uterus because of bleedings, mothers forced to leave their premature babies in hospitals and flee the Israeli attacks… no sanitary pads, no running water, no hygiene products… don’t they know about this?! What else needs to happen for them to take action to put an end to these atrocities?! Is there a hierarchy in women’s suffering? Does it depend on the color of their skin, their religion perhaps, or their place of birth?”
“Fourth, it was decided to condemn the coverage offered by the Western mass media coverage that works for the colonisers’ propaganda, which and ignores the voices of the colonised ones, as well as the media platforms that try to silence us. We thus condemn the dehumanisation of us Arabs and all people of color. We have a proverb in Arabic – concludes Marwa – which states: sometimes silence is louder and better than words.”
When asked about the number of participants, Marwa replies that “according to journalists, there were around a thousand women on the streets of Tunis”. And as far as the feedback that the initiative has had, she says that “many Palestinian women told us that we felt seen” continuing that “even the participants themselves told us that being with other women in the streets to claim rights of other suffering women has given us strength. The many, many participants also greatly appreciated the diversity that characterised the march: different women, from different political and ideological backgrounds, of different ages and social classes gathered to send their message of solidarity and ask for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the occupation. Journalists and photographers also appreciated the organization of the event. Wwe also received lots of messages saying how beautiful it was to see women taking over public space, while men watched from the side of the road.”
“Ending the war is not enough to end the sufferings” – concludes Marwa – this will only give people the opportunity to extract the bodies of their loved ones left under the rubble and bury them, and to find out if their homes have been destroyed partially or completely…However, ending the war, the siege, the occupation, releasing all the hostages, ensuring decent living conditions for the Palestinians and condemning Israel for all its crimes is what would truly help a mother who has lost all her children due to the bombings to deal with their grief in peace. Only by doing so will we prevent yet another Palestinian girl from going through the same suffering as her ancestors.”
The march of women, on 25th November, inevitably passed in front of the French Institute of Tunis, which walls were covered with graffiti praising the revolution, calling for support to the resistance and the liberation of Palestine, along with the end of the occupation, all of which expressed in not quite diplomatic tones, as one would expect from a people who are well aware of their own colonial past and above all are well aware of France’s colonialist past, which in recent weeks has done nothing to redeem itself, continuing to support the Israeli Apartheid state.
But what really draws attention is not so much the graffiti, which has appeared in the last month, but rather the mural paint next to them, dedicated to women, on which the slogan of the #EnaZeda movement, Tunisian for #MeToo, appears. This deafening silence, however, is not in the name of Tunisian women. The murales featuring women of all colours, women with hijabs, women with disabilities, does not include women who support women under military occupation. So yes, #MeToo, but definitely not in my name.
Saturday, December 9th 2023 – n°49/2023
On the cover: silence demonstration by tunisian women in Tunis – Photo by 2023©Camilla Forlani (all rights reserved)