Tuesday, June 5, 2012
In Egypt, women were at the forefront of the Arab spring, but in the new regime their rights are being eroded
guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 June 2012
"If you were to read a first draft of last year's Egyptian revolution, it would probably be written by a woman. The uprisings that spread across the country from late January were originally chronicled by prolific female writers such as Nawara Negm, who used everything from internet blogs to appearances on Al Jazeera to spread information to the outside world. "Freedom is only for those who are ready to die," was her mantra, although the protesters' tactics proved less extreme. Civil disobedience, marches and strikes were preferred to violence, with the number of women in Cairo's Tahrir ("liberation") Square peaking at around 50%.
How dispiriting, then, a year and a half on, to see a highly politicised female population relegated to near-onlookers during Egypt's first bona fide presidential election race.
In Cairo today, there is no longer a sense of a traditionally patriarchal society yielding to the democratic spirit of the Arab Spring. Instead, the hundreds of thousands of women who contributed so much to the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak find themselves marginalised, if not ignored.....
As in 2011, women played a crucial role in the 1919 revolution against British rule, but found themselves sidelined by the nationalist Wafd party after Egypt was granted nominal independence in 1922. The foiled legacy of Huda Shaarawi, who launched the Egyptian feminist movement a year later by publicly removing her veil, continues. Asmaa Mahfouz, a 26-year-old activist, is now referred to as the "Leader" of the Arab spring revolt because she uploaded a video in February 2011 calling for men to join her and her protesting sisters. What the frustrating narrative of Asmaa and thousands like her prove is that Egyptian women are deemed fit to inspire and mobilise, but not to assert themselves in the political process."