In west Asia, women emerge as driving force
As popular revolts continue to rock autocratic regimes across the Arab world, women are defying both taboo and stereotype and emerging as a driving force that is keeping the momentum of the protests going.
"Women played and continue to play an integral part in the uprisings and revolutions in the region, and what is key is that they are there, physically present in the streets, showing their numbers," said Nadim Houry, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.
In T-shirts and jeans or long black robes and veils, tens of thousands of women have made their voices heard in the streets, from Tunis to Cairo, from Manama to Sanaa, to demand reform in a region long ruled by autocracies. Inspired by the uprising that toppled Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, women turned out en masse in Egypt's Tahrir Square for weeks to demand the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, who quit on February 11 after 30 years in power.
Bahrain, where thousands of mainly Shiite protesters have been demanding the fall of the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, has also witnessed a massive turnout of women, who form a sea of black in their traditional robes and headscarves at the continuing gender-segregated rallies.
And in the conservative countries of Yemen and Libya, women have overturned social norms and joined the insurrections against Ali Abdullah Saleh and Moamer Gaddafi, marching openly in the streets and talking to journalists on camera.