On 14 and 15 May 2018, the Faculty of Law and Political and Administrative Sciences of the Lebanese University in Beirut hosted the seminar of the Euro-Mediterranean Euro - Mediterranean Academic and Scientific Network on Women and Gender (RUSEMEG) entitled “Experiences of women in cities in conflict ".
Organized in collaboration with the Lebanese Association of Women Researchers (Bahithat), the seminar aimed to compare research and experiences of women victims and actresses of conflict, with the objective of exploring the identity status of multi-nationality women, in periods of confit, through certain forms of cultural expression that give meaning to their experience.
The seminar began with Véronique Nahoum-Grappe, anthropologist, historian and researcher at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in France, on the polytrauma she perceived among women in refugee camps in Bosnia where she traveled in 1992 as a citizen. Back then, she witnessed acts of "daily heroism" of women survivors of the war, as for the example a young woman who crossed the combat frontline on a daily basis to work for three hours, then return to the camps. Nahoum-Grappe also tackled the issue of systematic rapes, wondering how wartime rape is normalized. "War rape, or the body as a place of conflict, has always accompanied wars, in the clichés and fantasies of warrior’s spoils. But since the second half of the 20th century, the problem is tackled differently: With the wars in the former Yugoslavia, the idea of "systematic rape" and rape as a "weapon of war" was introduced.
For her part, Kmar Bendanna, researcher at the Higher Institute of History of the National Movement, professor of contemporary history at the University of La Manouba (Tunisia), spoke about Tunisian women in the public space since 2011, their commitment and political and intellectual activism. Referring to the young Tunisian female student who arrested a fundamentalist wishing to remove the Tunisian flag from the university campus of Tunis and replace it with the black flag of Salafists, she recalled that women’s body has become a social and a political fact. "All by herself, the young Tunisian defended the secularism of Tunisia."
In the same session, Azza Soliman, president of Bahithat association, presented the research of Rola Koubeissi of Lebanon on the social position of women in cities in conflict: "Between the relation to oneself and the relation to the other".
In the 2nd session of the 1st day, three interventions took place:
Emma Boltanski, Member of the French Institute of the Near East (Ifpo) in Beirut, research director at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), spoke about her research project on the protest practices of Syrian women at the beginning of the revolution (2011-2012) through an epistemological analysis of all the audio-visual material produced by the local coordination committees of the revolution at that time.
Diana Cheaib, a Bahithat member, presented her research "Lebanese Women in the war test: A Solution to hardship and Identity Conflict," which is a kind of psychoanalysis of the behavior of Lebanese women who participated in the war by sacrificing themselves or sacrificing their children.
Nour Salameh, of the Gender Program of the European Institute of the Mediterranean, presented her testimony, as Syrian, on the transformations and reconstructions of women’s identities in a war context. "What is happening in Syria is extremely sad and tragic, but this situation has revealed the capacity of Syrian women to resist, to adapt, to fight for their rights, and to discover their voices. The important thing today is that Syrian women re-imagine and reinvent their identities in the face of the patriarchy of arms, "she said.
In the third session, Darine Bsaibes, a member of Bahithat, presented her research on folk art as identity creator in a war context: the case of Palestinian embroiderers in refugee camps. For her part, Fatima Oussedik, sociologist and member of RUSEMEG, spoke on the activism of ‘’ Assia Djebbar” a writer and translator who fought for gender equality, the emancipation of Algerian women, social justice, dignity and human rights.
Soukeina Bouraoui, member of RUSEMEG and Executive Director of the Arab Women’s Center for Training and Research (CAWTAR), concluded the first day by reflecting on the presented interventions, noting that women have now come to the forefront to face the systematic destructiveness of conflict, and that they are now more visible.
The second day was dedicated to the testimonies, roles and experiences of actors of the civil society including:
Nadine Méouchy, historian and founder of Ninurta association, who spoke about the fate of female refugees in Lebanon;
Wadad Halwany, founder of the Committee of families of the kidnapped and missing in Lebanon, first spontaneous pacifist and protest movement to emerge during the Lebanese civil war to claim the rights of the missing and their families;
Rania Stephan, documentary filmmaker who presented her film Ihtijaj on the three protests during the waste crisis in Lebanon in 2015;
Nahida Khalil from the Beirut Madinati Movement, who spoke about the “female architects’ experiences in Beirut neighborhoods”, a project for the recuperation of public space and the conservation of urban heritage, led mainly by women;
And Jana El Hassan, play writer who presented her testimony about the nurses in refugee camps in Lebanon in the years 1976-77 and their heroism.
The rest of the day was dedicated to a doctoral workshop where young PhD candidates from France, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon and Turkey had the opportunity to present their theses and interact with other participants in the seminar.
This seminar is in synergy with the action of the Euro- Mediterranean Foundation. It is part of Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacity of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women of the future in the Mediterranean", financed by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and within the framework of the project "Developing women’s autonomy", labeled by the Union for the Mediterranean.
For more information on the seminar, click on the enclosed report.
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.