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Excerpt from recent feature: Art & Arab Women’s Narratives: Insights from Michket Krifa
As a woman who has worked in Tunisia and other Muslim majority countries, what has been your personal experience, and what have you noticed related to the conditions for women in the region?
Contrary to stereotypical perceptions, I have never experienced any suffering as a woman in the Arab or Muslim countries, and certainly not in Tunisia where I grew up and worked in the field. In Tunisia, despite what we may see today through more extreme religious demonstrations, men have always respected women at the workplace. In my experience, they have always shown respect to strong women. I have experienced the same elsewhere, including Algeria, Palestine and Egypt; although I will say that there is a strange duplicity that exists in the region. In many cases women are respected and treated well, but there are also cases where a lack of respect and discrimination are a reality for women in their daily lives. In Iran for example, there are many strong women, and although they are required to cover, there is a double life that exists in the public sphere where there are many restrictions vs. the private sphere where everything is more or less allowed.
I had some difficulty as a woman with cultural codes in Iran, since growing up in Tunisia I had a very liberal education and deep belief in freedom for women, including choice of clothing. Despite my views on clothing choices, the question of the veil, which for over 20 years has been discussed on the public, political, and art scenes, has been over-used. For a long time we have been overdosed with images of veiled women as representatives of the Muslim woman. I believe veiling is an issue for women themselves to consider, and not an issue that should be used as a political instrument by the West, or by Islamic regimes, or by secular governments in Muslim countries. The issue deserves a much more…read full interview with Michket Krifa