A BLOG POST BY MAZNA HUSSAIN A couple of weeks ago, and a few days before Valentine’s Day, my father presented my mother with a lovely bouquet of flowers. Pleased, but somewhat quizzical, Mom asked Dad what warranted the early gift, to which Dad happily responded that the flowers were in celebration of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation - quite the romantic, my father. Young and old, lifetime-cynics or budding idealists, and with feelings ranging from cautious hope to sheer excitement, few have failed to realise the significance of the popular grassroots protests currently sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. Inspired by the mass citizen demonstrations and protests that led to the end of dictatorships in both Egypt (from which Mubarak was forced to resign after a 30-year rule) and Tunisia, citizens from Bahrain, Libya and Yemen are demanding their right to live in governments chosen by them, rather than forced upon them. Glorified perceptions of the movements, however, began to dissipate as reports of violent clashes between demonstrators and government forces in Egypt and other countries began filtering in. Currently, Libyan protesters are on the receiving end of an openly brutally violent crackdown by the Gaddafi regime, and reports of bloodshed in that country are dominating the headlines. It is easy from afar to idealise the concept of revolution and forget the very real violence that frontline demonstrators face collectively and individually. The subject of violence against women - endemic even outside times of great political and social upheaval - must also be made a crucial part of the revolutionary discourse. Not only as an agitator for change but also in recognition of the particularised forms of violence perpetrated against women during the course of revolution. We certainly faced a stark reminder of the latter when we learned of the brutal sex attack on news reporter Lara Logan on 11 February 2011. During the very same moments that crowds in Cairo were celebrating the downfall of Mubarak, Logan was dragged away from the rest of her team by a gang of men and sustained a horrific 20 – 30 minute sex attack. How many other women connected to the protests experienced similar forms of violence but did not have the platform for which to communicate or seek redress of those individual experiences? Violence against women remains disturbingly rampant throughout the world. In Egypt, women face reportedly high levels of sexual harassment, as well as incidences of female genital mutilation and rape. In Yemen, girls as young as eight are forced into marriage, and in Pakistan, hundreds of honour based violence murders are reported each year. From the mass government-promoted rapes in the Congo to the incidence of sexual violence in the U.S. (1 in 6 women is raped, accordingly to government statistics), we know that violence against women is not merely an “Arab/Muslim problem.” Across the U.K, 3 million women experience gender-based violence every year. Unfortunately, there is no dearth of statistics to support the plain fact that violence against women and girls is truly a universal epidemic. So let us not fail to be inspired by the achievements of committed ordinary citizens who mobilise and demand change in peaceful ways. But let’s also not forget to address the very real violence that they – particularly women - face along the way. In the early days of the Cairo protests, Egyptian women protesters reported a lessening, if not altogether absence, of sexual harassment and attacks in public spaces. In deciding what to glorify in the movements unfolding before our eyes, let us also choose to celebrate those moments of freedom. And let us also decide to sing the praises of a worldwide revolution in which women stand shoulder to shoulder with men, collectively demanding – and winning – the unequivocal right to live their lives in equality and with dignity, free of violence. Now that would be a revolution worth celebrating. Mazna Hussain is a U.S. lawyer who works with Muslim women escaping gender-based violence. She is currently working to launch a new U.K-based charity called The Sunshine Project which focuses on empowering Muslim communities against domestic violence. For more information, please contact Mazna at firstname.lastname@example.org.