Friday, February 22, 2013

Women in Egypt Two Years After the Revolution

Various organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations have expressed their concern with the epidemic of violence and sexual assault of women in Egypt. While harassment and gender inequity have persisted throughout Egypt for decades, the level of sexual assaults at anti-government demonstrations have risen both in numbers and intensity the past year reaching its height late January and early February 2013, which marked the two year anniversary since the fall of autocrat Mubarak (USAtoday). During a three-week period, dozens of women have reported being stripped, groped, and raped at demonstrations across Egypt.

Many activists exclaim that sexual harassment in Egypt is a reality and expect little to be done by police, but are refusing to be silenced. Throughout the world, people gathered outside Egyptian embassies in early February to denounce the occurrence of violence against women and particularly against female protestors (Trew). Statements made by the Shura council, the Salafi movement, other ultra-conservative Islamist that placed blame on the victims fueled the backlash of the violence. “They basically said that women are responsible for the horrendously violent attacks on Tahrir and said we should have specially designated areas for women to protest. We might as well have a separate Egypt for women,” said Mariam Kirollos, a member of the Human Rights Watch and a member of Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment movement (Trew). Some activists believe, and I think they are correct, that the attacks are aimed at excluding women from public places, silencing them and breaking their spirits. “Women have been a vital part of protests and have sacrificed much in their fight for freedom and social justice.  Egyptian authorities need to honour their activism and pull out all stops to address endemic violence against women in all echelons of society,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International (Amnesty International).

Groups such as the Tahrir Bodyguards who have promised to protect female demonstrators have offered self-defense courses and also patrol the square. Further, videos of the assaults and marches have taken place in order to raise awareness about this issue (USAtoday). The fact that women are coming forward to talk about their harassment is a good sign for Egypt as it is typically seen as taboo. Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women urges Egyptian leaders to put in place the legislation and mechanisms that ensure the protection of women and children and for women to continue to fight for their rights. “As a vibrant force in civil society, women continue to press for their rights, equal participation in decision-making, and the upholding of the principles of the revolution by the highest levels of leadership in Egypt” (United Nations). 

My huge thanks to my GA Jillian Underwood, who helps me stay on task in the blogosphere!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Frustration with Morsy builds

Protest in front of Presidential Palace, February15, 2013
This week protests continued in Egypt.  February 11th marked the second anniversary of the  end of the Egyptian Revolution, the 18-day uprising that overthrew Mubarak. Since protests started again in late January, 2013 dozens have been killed and hundreds injured. There have been accusations of police brutality and other abuses by security forces in Egypt. While avoiding direct criticism of Morsy, representatives from the United States expressed concern about the climate and stated that people’s economic and political concerns should be addressed. Further, the US Embassy suggested  that the Egyptian Government needs to reach out widely to opposition to find a common ground. Reflecting the fear of backlash, it was reported this week that dozens of police officers have rallied outside the local security administration headquarters demanding to stop being used as a tool for political oppression in the country’s ongoing turmoil.

Many in Egypt are frustrated with Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Muslim Brotherhood is increasingly accused of monopolizing power. The economy has deteriorated, conservative Islamists are obstructing progress in the country, there are troubling concerns with the new constitution, and security forces continue to be heavy handed. “Of course I feel disappointed. Every day is getting worse,” said a citizen. Morsi and his supporters have dismissed the opposition’s claims that he is the same as Mubarak and accused them of trying to “topple a democratically elected president.” Bouts of protests and uprising started in December when Egyptians perceived some of Morsy’s actions, as power grabbing. Since December, Morsy’s approval ratings have continuously declined and are currently the lowest it has been since he’s been in office. 


Thanks to my wonderful GA, Jillian Underwood!

A Valentine for Eypt

Valentine's Day Gifts in Cairo Stores. Photo Credit Islam Farouk
You thrill me
I try to leave, but cannot
I push forward in the desert winds, feeling the palm air caress my face
The boats carry me away, but I return
a pull as strong as the Nile's current dragging me ever toward you
feeling your richness, feeling your depth
fearful of your embrace, but addicted to your bottomless charms
wondering how our story will end


Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday of Departure

مظاهرات «جمعة الرحيل» ببورسعيد
Protests of "Friday of Departure" in Port Said, 8 February 2013, demanding toppling of Mohamed Morsy's regime.
Egypt was rocked today by "Friday of Departure" protests.  Train lines near Tahrir were blocked as protesters asked for Morsy's departure. The protests seemed to contain significant bitterness against the Muslim Brotherhood with slogans like "Brothers cannot be trusted." Today's protest demanded the ouster of Mohammed Morsy, and the formation of a National Salvation Government.

Meanwhile, the National Salvation Front states that it is not demanding the overthrow of President Morsy. Rather, they say they support peaceful protests, and clarify that they believe Morsy is elected, but is abusing his powers.

However, not all is well with Egypt's opposition. In a thoughtful editorial, Dina el-Khawaga, a Professor at the University of Cairo argues that the NSF has focused too much on installing a new type of political regime, and not enough on consolidating a revolutionary, social policy-driven agenda. A Crying Need for a New Opposition She also points out that by focusing on an anti-Brotherhood agenda, the opposition polarizes Egyptian society even further, and worsens existing societal divisions.

She states that the opposition

needs to develop a discourse that expresses the demands of broad, disenfranchised social groups, and stresses the need to restructure the political system to serve the aspirations of citizens with regard to dignity, freedom and equity.

Well said Doktora. 

There has been a surge of violence in the recent weeks, with dozens dead from police violence. According to Reuters, the US government condemned violence against protesters, as well as the numerous acts of sexual violence against women which have taken place over the past two weeks. At least 60 persons have been killed. Although the police are part of the upsurge in violence, so are civilians.

One of the most shocking episodes has been a video of a naked middle-aged man being beaten and dragged through the streets by police to their armored vehicle. Saber has alternately blamed protesters and the police for his beating. Egypt Police Beating: The Strange Case of Hamada Saber

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Pope has expressed concerns that the new Egyptian Constitution is discriminatory, and is worried Christians will continue to be treated as an oppressed minority. The Pope called for all laws to be based on the concepts of citizenship, not religion.

In news that may make gender activists happy, early in February, the Supreme Constitutional Court  upheld the criminality of female genital mutilation, and has determined that it violates article 2 of the1971 constitution, and is also inconsistent with the principles of Sharia.