Late Night Drift: Women of Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT - JANUARY 29: Egyptian woman shout out during a demonstration against President Hosni Mubarek in Tahrir Square January 29, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. Unrest continued in the Egyptian captial as President Mubarek said he would form a new government but remain in power.

The Daughters of Hatshepsut take to the Street.

There seems to be a narrative in some fairly strange places that the women of Egypt are not behind a move to democracy and that they will suffer if Mubarak is removed.  I thought I’d share some photos and stories on the role of  Women in Egypt’s struggle for democracy.

From Slate:Women Are a Substantial Part of Egyptian Protests

An unprecedented number of Egyptian women participated in Tuesday’s anti-government protests. Ghada Shahbandar, an activist with the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, estimated the crowd downtown to be 20 percent female. Other estimates were as high as 50 percent. In past protests, the female presence would rarely rise to 10 percent. Protests have a reputation for being dangerous for Egyptian women, whose common struggle as objects of sexual harassment is exacerbated in the congested, male-dominated crowd. Police hasten to fence in the demonstrators, and fleeing leads to violence. And women, whose needs are not reflected in the policies of official opposition groups who normally organize protests, have little reason to take the risk.

One of the protest organizers is a woman: Political activist Esraa Abdel Fattah, whose 15-day detention in 2008 for her activism made her a symbol of resistance. But Abdel Fattah’s position at the helm of the movement did not previously mean a large female presence. In 2008 Abdel Fattah tried to mobilize all of Egypt around labor conditions in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, north of Cairo. The male workers in the industrial town constituted the majority of the original protesters, and subsequent protests organized by the movement likewise failed to draw as large of a female crowd as seen on Tuesday.

Whoever is running this narrative can’t possibly be watching what’s going on unless they’re spending a huge amount of time on Faux News waiting for a pronouncement from Snowflake Snookie.

Women on the front lines in Egypt

Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy has emerged as one of the most prominent representatives of the movement on Western news media. Yesterday, she successfully got CNN to change their headline from “CHAOS IN EGYPT” to “UPRISING IN EGYPT.

Eltahawy, whose Twitter feed has been essential reading for those following the events in Egypt, has been circulating a link to a Facebook album filled with inspiring pictures of women on the front lines of the protests. (Le Monde has a similar gallery for the protests in Tunisia.)

Why is it important to draw attention to this phenomenon? Because we know it’s in the The West’s playbook to exploit concern for women’s rights to justify its imperial ambitions. That’s one of the many ways that the war in Afghanistan was sold to the public, from the CIA’s Wikileaked cable on manipulating public opinion in Europe to the propagandistic cover of Time magazine depicting a woman disfigured by the Taliban.

Culture warriors have cynically co-opted feminist rhetoric to push for bans on the Islamic veil throughout Europe, despite evidence that such prohibitions might actually make women more isolated and less safe. In 2009, Switzerland actually banned the construction of minarets, supposedly in response to feminist concerns.

I would not be at all surprised to hear US leaders, media pundits, and even some liberals defend the Mubarak regime by underscoring the potential threat of newly-empowered Islamists to impose restrictions on women’s rights in Egypt.This possibility certainly exists, but we should not pretend that the United States is sincere about these concerns, nor should we ignore the tens of thousands of Egyptian women taking to the streets to demand change.

“Bravest girl in Egypt”

Mona Eltahawy to CNN: Call Egypt an Uprising

Do these sound like women that are going to be put behind some kind of  iron veil?    I’m not buying the narrative that a nation that produced Cleopatra and Hatshepsut is going to suddenly find itself promoting the Muslim Version of the Hand Maid’s Tale.

What is behind this sense of false chivalry?

32 Comments on “Late Night Drift: Women of Egypt”

  1. Woman Voter says:

    Yes, the meme is Hosni Mubarak dictator or Islamic Brotherhood. Never mind that the Brotherhood has themselves said they aren’t part of the movement and 80 +% of the Egyptians don’t hold such views and are merely interested in a new constitution, freedom and democracy.

    Iran’s Gen X & Y are too seeking similar changes and others too in the region. Those that get caught up in the ultra conservative nuances generally aren’t too informed and seek to control people and don’t seek freedom for people, especially freedom of expression.

  2. Dario says:

    Maybe one woman is afraid:

    Mubarak’s wife in London?

    But according to rumours sweeping Britain’s Egyptian community, the President, 82, and wife Suzanne, 69, are also planning to head to the ritzy five-bed haven.
    Egyptian baggage handlers at Heathrow are even said to have already spotted the First Lady arriving at the airport.
    Mubarak is said to have amassed a £25billion fortune for his family since grabbing power in 1981.

  3. Kat, is there a youtube like the below with women’s voices? I’d really love to see one:

  4. dakinikat says:

    Here is Elbaradei’s statement to Fareed Zakir on the canard that this is going to lead to some kind of islamist wonderland…

    ELBARADEI: I’m quite confident of that, Fareed. This is a myth that was sold by the Mabarak regime, that it’s either us — the ruthless dictators — or a Muslim al-Qaeda type. The Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian movement, has nothing to do with extremism as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group. They are a minority in Egypt. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people, but they have a lot of credibility because of liberal parties have been a struggle for thirty years. They are in favor of a secular state. they are of –they are in favor of an institution that have bread lines, they are in favor that every Egyptian have the same rights, that the state is in no way a state based on religion. And I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them. They are as much a part of society as the markets that started here. I think this is a myth that has been perpetuated and sold by the regime and has no iota of reality. You know Fareed, I worked with Iranians, I’ve worked here. It’s 100 percent difference between the two societies.

    • Woman Voter says:

      Zakaria is just not happy if people don’t quote his books. Mean while in Afghanistan the Taliban are executing people for religious laws that aren’t based on legal laws. Why was our government willing to deal with the Taliban?

  5. RT @jamaldajani: If you want to puke watch & listen to CNN’s pundits on #Egypt #jan25. They’re experts because they once had a falafel sandwich.. not kidding

  6. Dario says:

    Clinton convenes mass meeting of US ambassadors

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is convening an unprecedented mass meeting of U.S. ambassadors.
    The top envoys from nearly all of America’s 260 embassies, consulates and other posts in more than 180 countries will be gathering at the State Department beginning on Monday. Officials say it’s the first such global conference.
    The gathering comes at a time of crisis in Egypt that could reshape dynamics in the Middle East, fallout from leaked diplomatic documents and congressional calls for sweeping cuts in foreign aid.
    Although the meeting has been called to discuss U.S. foreign policy priorities for 2011, officials say Clinton plans to meet personally with ambassadors from front-line states to hear about developments on the ground. Officials also expect that specific concerns about the WikiLeaks revelations will be raised.

  7. Fredster says:

    Got a boo-boo in there but it still goes to the page.

  8. Fredster says:

    Courtesy of John Smart. While Cairo burns, Obama goes to a party. I guess the guy just needed a break after making all those calls and stuff.

  9. votermom says:

    Well, I admit I fell for it, largely because it fits the theme I have been reading about for several years that more and more women in Egypt have been wearing the niqab.
    But I am the first to cheer if Egyptian women get more freedom under a the new government.

    Btw, linky to my blog post response today to Krugman saying that Cairo reminds him of Manila 1986.

  10. Pilgrim says:

    I like what Dak says about the land that produced Cleopatra….

  11. Sweet Sue says:

    Well, I hope that you’re right-I really do.
    But I’m old enough to remember all those Iranian women demonstrating for the removal of the Shah and return of the Ayatollah.
    That didn’t work out so well.
    Fingers crossed.

    • dakinikat says:

      Iran is shia. Big difference in that alone. Also its ethnically Persian and not diverse culturally either. Egypt is quite secular and not by force. The shah had forced that. It’s like getting rid of jim crow laws in the south compared to some place that never had them to start out with … Egyptians are not Iranians. The place to worry about women is yeman. Muslim Indonesia has a healthier women’s rights movement and government treatment than we do because of the basic culture there.

  12. Branjor says:

    May as well repost my comment from the 8 year old Saudi girl thread which was apparently posted too late to get much notice. Here it is:

    Great photos of women in Egypt, very uplifting, especially the one in which they are wearing comfy jeans, no headscarf, and standing atop the vehicle, one with arm upraised.

    The moment of truth for this revolution, however, will come in its aftermath. Women have historically always been right there and participating whenever freedom and democracy are being fought for, however very seldom have the freedom and democracy won been extended to women to the same extent as to men, and often not at all. Witness the French Revolution, the Sandinistas, the American Revolution. Women’s main battle here will be after Mubarak is removed, to get equal representation in the new government and changes in their society. Probably the only revolution which will have any lasting significance for women, however, will be the one in which we throw men out of power.

  13. Minkoff Minx says:

    Dak, do we have Mona’s blog up on the bloglist?

  14. dakinikat says:

    From Democracy Now:

    Renowned feminist and human rights activist Nawal El Saadawi was a political prisoner and exiled from Egypt for years. Now she has returned to Cairo, and she joins us to discuss the role of women during the last seven days of unprecedented protests. “Women and girls are beside boys in the streets,” El Saadawi says. “We are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system… and to have a real democracy.”