Arab Alawism and Women

18 October 2016 Tuesday, 13:31

The Report of Workshop  3  

Arab Alawism and Women


In this workshop, we discussed the status of women within Arab Alawism, which is a term with two components (ethnicity and religion). When we look at monotheistic religions, we see that they all consider women as secondary within society and religious order. All monotheistic religions naturally see women as secondary beings. In the beginning of our discussions, we came to a mutual agreement that Arab Alawism is also part of such a religious system and that Arab Alawites are a patriarchal and patrilineal society. We all agreed that while discussing the status of women, we should keep in mind that we are not that drastically different from the groups we live side by side.

During this workshop, we discussed the status and identity of Arab Alawite women, in connection with gender, under two main topics. The term “gender” signals that maleness and femaleness are based on biological differences and that gender does not consist of this basis, but is in fact a socially constructed, fluid and enforced set of roles, expectations and behaviors.


The construction of women’s identity in society

Under this topic, we discussed the status of women, their construction of identity, and women’s organization, starting from the scale of family and tracing it through the more extensive society. We agreed that, parallel to any other patriarchal society, socially and culturally constructed gender roles are also enforced upon women of the Arab Alawite community. We concluded that in sharing communal spaces, such as weddings, there are no problems/inequalities between men and women.

We discussed the effects and transformations of modernization and urbanization on this community. Some of these changes are higher levels of education among women, increased freedom in choosing a partner, and decreased incidents of marriage between relatives. At the same time, this has also caused a decrease in speaking Arabic in daily life and hence reducing communication between generations, as well as deterioration of cultural values.

Aside from these points, we acknowledged that the Syrian Conflict has initiated an identity search among the Arab Alawite youth due to heightened discriminatory language targeting Arab Alawites. As a result of this identity search, various Arab Alawite youth organizations and the Arab Alawite Women’s Council has been established.


The role of women in religious rituals and sacred places

Under this topic, we discussed the role of women in religious holidays, sacred places, holy scripts and their relationship to these rituals. We came to a mutual agreement that women are not overlooked in the religious order, but their role is for the most part limited to service areas, thus hinting to a role division in line with patriarchy. We highlighted the importance of women in encouraging visitations to sacred places and their active role in those places. As it can be observed in other patriarchal societies, we discussed that Arab Alawite women are ‘ethnic vessels’ and their roles as child-bearers is a result of such patriarchal system.

We also pointed out that there is a significant gap in the literature on Arab Alawite women and that objective research should be encouraged and diversified.


Results and Recommendations


We value Arab Alawite women’s organization and solidarity with other women’s organizations on local and national levels. We believe that we need to further the Arabic language and disseminate its usage among our community. We recommend that more research should be done regarding Alawite culture, history, society and women’s employment. Considering Arab Alawite women have considerably more societal freedom, we ask that they should be allowed in spaces where men socialize in order to get the opportunity to ask questions to religious leaders about religion, history and culture. We also ask that opportunities for women, who wish to learn more about the existent religious practices pertaining women, which were once more widely practiced, are facilitated.