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Global Roundup: #NoBeijing2022, Feminist Art Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, Afghanistan’s Radio Begum, Dawer X Damper Challenging Gender Norms, Recognizing Same-Sex Parents in the EU
Compiled by Inaara Merani
Source: Zumetray Arkin
A coalition of young activists has joined together in the #NoBeijing2022 campaign, which aims to shed light on repression perpetuated by the Chinese government. A core issue is China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority group who have been disappeared, surveilled, and imprisoned in forced labor camps. The Beijing Winter Olympic Games are due to begin on February 4, just 180 days after the postponed Tokyo Summer Games ended.
We postponed the Olympics for a pandemic, I don’t see why we can’t postpone for a genocide. Genocide has to be a red line. When you have Uyghurs being put into modern-day concentration camps, I think there’s little room to say, ‘These are games that happen every year, we can’t just change everything.’” - Tsela Zoksang, 18-year old Tibetan activist and student
Many young activists have begun to call the Olympics the “Genocide Games”. A coalition of young activists has formed to push the #NoBeijing2022 campaign forward, which strives to demonstrate the repressiveness of China’s government. Led by young women, the coalition includes Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, and pro-democracy Chinese activists.
#NoBeijing2022 is not aimed at critiquing the Olympic games themselves and it is not part of the global anti-Olympics movement; this movement focuses on the fact that the Olympics will be held in China, a country that engages in human rights abuses and has not done anything about it, nor has it been stopped.
After the 2008 Olympics in China, the nation promised reform as Human Rights Watch found that China’s hosting of the Olympics had been a catalyst for abuses. The Olympics are often used as propaganda for China as well; hosting the Games has always been about international and domestic image rather than sport.
In 2008, we were not talking about a genocide. Today, we are talking about serious crimes and genocide. - Zumretay Arkin, Uyghur activist
The significance of this movement is in the solidarity between activists. Young people from around the region have come together to support those who have been oppressed in China and in surrounding countries.
When we engage with one another, and when we're able to pool our skills together and unite, we are actually able to create waves. Our voices and our communities are able to come together…As a Hong Kong activist, I witnessed so many of my friends being arrested, imprisoned and forced into exile, simply for fighting for the freedom and democracy that we deserve. The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is bound to become a platform for the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda and will allow the brutal genocidal regime to gain political legitimacy. Imagine seeing the world cheer and applaud for a regime that has your families and friends detained and killed – that is simply unbearable. - Tesla Zoksang
The U.S. recently announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics in response to the “genocide and crimes against humanity” occurring in China. Canada, Australia and the U.K. quickly followed suit. After news of the U.S. diplomatic boycott broke, Tenzin Yangzom, a 24-year-old Tibetan activist, tweeted, “Young activists made this happen.”
As the Winter Games in 2022 quickly approach, these activists will remain strong and outspoken about this issue, with the hopes that the Games might actually be postponed so that the international community can hold China accountable.
Source: Women’s Media Centre
Abu Dhabi’s Warehouse421 – an arts design centre that showcases regional talent – is now home to a new feminist art exhibition titled “As We Gaze Upon Her”. Curated by Sara bin Safwan and Sarah Algroobi, the 26 installations within this exhibition explore notions of feminism and misogyny.
The exhibition features Palestinian artist Rania Jishi’s latest installation, “Dinner is Served”, which uses ceramic plates to convey the suppressed emotions of women at dinner tables. The plates sit stacked on a dining table, with different messages written onto each plate.
One plate says “Shut your mouth”. Another says “You’re dismissed”. Jishi attempts to speak back to the patriarchy and defy it by recreating situations in which women have been emotionally abused by their male partners, usually at the dinner table.
The daughter, wife, or mother is forced to serve, oblige, accommodate, comfort, cushion, or baby a grown man. Where normal channels of communication are lacking, the language of the patriarch is control, domination; and the language of the oppressed is anger, frustration. - Rania Jishi
Dinner tables usually create an inviting atmosphere, however, this arrangement is purposely uncomfortable. The table hosts shattered, unglazed, and unfinished plates which symbolize rejection or surrendering to the oppressed.
“Dinner is Served” is one of 26 artworks that are currently on display at Warehouse421. Rishi is joined by other local artists who communicate powerful stories in their own regard. For example, Amina Yahia is another local artist who uses canvas painting to highlight Egypt’s mass awakening around sexual assault last year and explore misogyny, the male gaze, and objectification. The paintings feature fragmented female forms wearing “modest” and “immodest” clothing, as clothing is usually the justification used in sexual crimes.
Source: Women’s Media Centre
It attempts to expand the notion of ‘woman,’ as it is often constrained by social, cultural, and existential insecurities. - Safwan, co-curator
“As We Gaze Upon Her” creates a space to discuss the intersectionalities of race, gender, migration, class, and more. Each artist within this exhibition explores a different theme and shares a different message. The curators hope that this exhibition will be a starting point for how the Middle East begins to define and shape feminism.
When we talk about spaces, women dominate private and domestic spaces and men dominate public spaces, but that may have nothing to do with being ‘oppressed. There are so many cultural nuances that operate, and these intersectionalities are important because they help clarify and reframe. - Sarah Algroobi, co-curator
Source: Al Jazeera
Radio Begum is a radio station that was created by and for the voices of women in Afghanistan who have been silenced. Every day, the show hosts programs for women such as book readings, call-in counselling, and educational sessions. Radio Begum currently operates with the permission of the Taliban, however, those involved are not giving up on this station, and ultimately the rights of women across Afghanistan.
We have to show that we don’t need to be scared. We must occupy the public sphere…This station is a vessel for women’s voices, their pain, their frustrations. - Hamida Aman, founder of Radio Begum
Radio Begum was founded on March 8, International Women’s Day, which this year came around five months before the Taliban takeover. The station broadcasts across Kabul and surrounding regions, and also streams live on Facebook.
In September, the station was granted permission by the Taliban to remain on the air, adding new policies. Female employees of Radio Begum used to share an office with male colleagues from a youth radio station, but these men and women have now been separated and work on different floors. The women’s office now has opaque curtains installed in front. Additionally, pop music has been replaced with quieter and more traditional music.
Since the Taliban takeover, most secondary schools for girls have shut down. However, twice a day, Radio Begum becomes a classroom as a small number of students have the opportunity to learn firsthand from presenters who conduct educational sessions online.
My message to girls who can’t go to school is to listen to our programme carefully, to use this golden chance and opportunity. They may not have it again. - Mursal, 13-year old girl studying at Radio Begum
Tolo News, the nation’s leading independent TV station, reported in September that over 150 media outlets were forced to shut down due to restrictions and financial difficulties. Although this station has provided solace to many women across Kabul, if Radio Begum does not begin receiving funds within three months, it will have to shut down.
Around the world, people are challenging gender norms and redefining what it means to conform to a certain gender. Artists with large platforms and followings have also challenged gender norms and have explored their gender orientation; although limited, many artists in the mainstream have pushed the narrative of non-binary.
Dawer X Damper is a Colombian duo from Aguablanca, Cali that is experimenting with Afro-futuristic elements. Their music is known to portray a softer, more feminine side to urban music, demonstrating that there is more to urban music than what is shown in the mainstream media.
It’s due to the same need to break out of the established and knowing how little society has listened to us. That shows us that what is built is a space in which we do not all fit. - Dawer X Damper
In one of their songs, Dulce, the artists aimed to deny and overcome gender roles, and instead form a discourse around love. This was not only expressed visually in the colourful and vibrant music video but this non-binary notion was also implemented in their lyrics.
Their music attempts to reimagine gender and what it means to conform to gendered norms. Dawer X Damper are normalizing discourse around gender and being non-binary through urban music in an attempt to challenge stereotypes.
Source Pink News
The European Union’s top court has ruled that Bulgaria must issue identity papers to a child of same-sex parents; this decision is now also binding on all EU nations. This huge step for the LGBTQ+ community in Europe, which has faced several challenges in recent years, comes after the Bulgarian government refused to issue a birth certificate for a baby born in 2019 to a same-sex couple.
The child, Sara, was born in Spain but could not be considered a Spanish citizen as both her parents were not citizens – one parent was born in Bulgaria and the other in Gibraltar. Sara was also denied citizenship in the UK. Bulgaria later denied Sara citizenship because the nation does not recognize same-sex marriage. Without any form of documentation, Sara’s access to health, education, and social security would be very limited. Additionally, this also prevented Sara and her family from leaving Spain.
After a two-year battle, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) finally ruled yesterday that all member states must recognize same-sex relationships, a huge step for the LGBTQ+ community in Europe. Specifically, the court ruled that Bulgaria must provide Sara with identity papers as the absence of documentation could hinder her ability to exercise her rights.
It is important for us to be a family, not only in Spain but in any country in Europe and finally it might happen. This is a long-awaited step ahead for us but also a huge step for all LGBT families in Bulgaria and Europe. - Sara’s parents
The ruling also stated that everyone in the EU should be able to freely express their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of discrimination. This movement was applauded by allies around the EU as many European nations have been home to rampant homophobia and transphobia in recent years.
Inaara Merani (she/her) is currently completing her Master’s degree at Western University, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a collaborative specialization in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about gender equality and social justice and in turn, dismantling the patriarchy and ensuring that all women and vulnerable populations have safe and equal access to all their rights. She hopes to pursue a career in law so that she can continue to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups everywhere. She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat.