Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Cairo Revolution is Far from Over: the Egyptian Women's Revolution has Only Just Begun - By Evita Mouawad

Shahira Amin at the Amerikahaus
By Evita Mouawad, Program and Communications Officer for MENA at Women without Borders/SAVE

Contrary to popular belief, the revolution in Egypt is far from over. In fact, the military's repression of Coptic protests in Cairo last Sunday can be described as the most violent incident since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime last February. Twenty five died and more than 300 were injured as soldiers drove their vehicles into crowds of protesters demanding to know the truth about the attack on a church in Aswan last month.

The Coptic Christians are not the only ones still fighting for their rights in the country, Egyptian women are also struggling to be treated as equals to their male counterparts. Issues such as the continuation of the Egyptian revolution and the role of women in post-revolution Egypt were discussed on Thursday by renowned Egyptian journalist Shahira Amin. The event entitled 'Post-revolution Egypt: Inclusive Democracy in the Making, A Journalist's View' was organized by the international advocacy group Women without Borders and their Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) initiative, in cooperation with the American Embassy in Austria.

In February 2011, at the height of the Egyptian revolution, Amin's face was seen on television screens around the world, as she resigned from her post of senior correspondent for state-run Nile TV on live television. While supporters of the Mubarak regime stormed Tahrir Square and began attacking protesters, Amin was given a script to read that made no mention of what was happening that very moment outside her studio, and so, she simply walked out.

Today, Amin has become a symbol of the continuing fight for freedom of the press in her country. "I find it tragic that in post-revolution Egypt civilians would get killed for simply expressing their demands which are very legitimate. Their church had been torched and they were calling for the protection of their places of worship" said Amin, referring to the recent Coptic protests.

As for the role of women in her country, Amin stated that, while female political participation remains considerably low, it is undeniable that Egyptian women played a major role in the revolution that ousted Mubarak's 30 year old regime after just 18 days of protests. "Let's not forget that it was young female activists, like Israa Abdel Fattah and Asmaa Mahfouz, who instigated the mass uprising, by posting videos of police brutality on Facebook." she said.

Nonetheless, shortly after the ousting of Mubarak, women activists realized that their fight was far form over. After the interim government formed what Amin dubbed a 'committee of so-called wise men' to draft the first constitutional amendments, not a single woman was invited to take part. As for today, there is only one woman minister in Egypt.

Furthermore, women who were celebrating Women's Day in Tahrir Square on the 8th of March were physically assaulted. Amin said the women "were humiliated by what we were led to believe were conservative bearded men who shouted 'go home where you belong'." But the journalist believes that in reality these men were 'thugs' hired by the remnance of the old regime to 'scare' women away from the political scene.

The journalist also denounced the 'virginity tests' that were conducted by the military on seventeen female protesters who were arrested in Tahrir Square in March. Amin interviewed one of the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces two months after these tests allegedly occurred, and when asked if the rumours were true, the general claimed the military had done it in self defense, so that the  imprisoned women could not later claim they were sexually assaulted by the army. "As if this wasn't sexual assault already" said Amin.    

Amin also urged the West to adopt a more ‘balanced’ attitude towards the region as other revolutions that have occurred in countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and of course Syria have been more or less ignored.

Women whitout Borders founder Edit Schlaffer & Shahira Amin
Despite the post-revolution setbacks, Amin applauded the fact that female candidate Bouthayna Kamel is running for president in Egypt. "She knows she may not win, because society is simply not ready for a female president yet. But at least Bouthayna has shattered the glass ceiling for all women who wish to run for president in the future" she said, making it clear that the Egyptian women are certainly not planning on giving up the fight.

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