'nesa'iyeh' Photography of Mati Milstein
A new generation of Palestinian activists stands out from their society in the most distinct way: they are women.
These women are on the front lines of West Bank protest. They are beaten and face arrest and sexual harassment for their bold role. Starting with the March 15, 2011 Palestinian unity rallies, they began to take on key organizational positions and lead street protests, standing on the lines – in front of their male counterparts – and bearing the brunt of soldiers’ blows. The women, who are mostly in their teens and 20s, employ a strictly non-violent strategy both to shake off Israeli occupation and to demand sexual equality and unity in a highly-fragmented and chauvinist, patriarchal society.
“Throughout history, women have been active in revolutions but then, after the revolution is over, men would take the leadership roles. But we intend to go for all these roles,” said key activist Ashira, who was inspired by women in the Egyptian revolution. “Women are often scared of being leaders. But any woman who has a chance for a leadership role should take it. That’s the only way we can change society.”
Nesa’iyeh, the word chosen to represent this body of work, is Palestinian Arabic slang that means “feminist” or “a woman thing.” Through their actions, these women are reforging the manner in which we were taught that Palestinians are meant to act, that women are meant to behave, and that conflicts are meant to be conducted. The women appearing in these images are among those now changing the face of the Arab world.