Late Night: Women’s Voices on EgyptPosted: February 8, 2011
Hello all, Wonk here with some reads I’d like to share with the late night crowd. Tonight’s theme is going to put a spotlight on what women have to say about Egypt. Normally I’d start out with a youtube or quote from a protester or an Arab woman, but commenter Pilgrim e-mailed me a fantastic piece by Canadian columnist Linda McQuaig that I thought spoke volumes. It’s called “Arabs love democracy, but do we?“:
The fact that the Arab world is awash with dictators has long been a key piece of evidence used to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment in the West.
Surely all those dictators are proof that Arabs don’t love democracy the way we Westerners do, that they are culturally, religiously and perhaps congenitally attracted to tyrannical strongmen as leaders.
This widely held view will be difficult to sustain here now that wall-to-wall TV coverage of the Egyptian (and Tunisian) uprisings has exposed the truth: Arabs don’t like tyrants any more than we do.
In fact, they love democracy — so much so that hundreds of thousands of them have risked serious harm by taking to the streets to defy a regime that for decades has been a leading practitioner of repression and torture of dissidents.
That’s just the beginning. Check out the rest of McQuaig’s column for more.
As excited as I am at media coverage of #Egypt revolution I am disappointed at overwhelmingly male experts they turn to. Where r women?’
..and then this:
In her follow-up she made it clear that her point wasn’t to ask “where are the women” but to draw out the intellectual and analytical contributions of women:
Mona got quite a few tweets pointing to women’s voices pouring out in response, and I’d like to highlight some of them.
First, an Egyptian woman that Mona Eltahawy highlighted herself — Magda Sharara, who has posted the following entry– “Fearless Egyptians: A message of love and respect” — on almanacmag.com (The Mag of Egypt). An excerpt:
Until January 25th 2011, most Egyptians were their own fiercest critics, seriously or jokingly. They railed against their lack of democracy, between a Sheesha and a coffee, and whined about their repression and the corruption surrounding them. Their glorious past slipping and almost forgotten. Sometimes nostalgia, and other times chaos seemed to guide them.There was anger in the Egyptian streets, frustration, and a feeling of irresolution and drift. No wind of stability was blowing their way, for a very long time.
But today, millions of Egyptians are standing up for their rights, fighting, screaming, chanting with joy and sorrow, and some are bravely dying for an indisputable democratic and free country in the middle of Tahrir square. They have forever changed the way the world perceives them.
They are recharged, and their revitalization is contagious. They are the heroes of a modern revolution, they are the fearless Egyptians that death does not scare.
They deserve to be respected, encouraged, honored, saluted, thanked, loved and remembered.
It is not death that we should fear, but a life not lived in dignity; that is the real tragedy.
Magda’s message really deserves to be read in its entirety.
Next up… Sunita Rappai, a British Indian journalist living in Cairo. She has a wonderfully refreshing take on Egypt, which balances competing perspectives on what’s going on in Egypt. In her blog piece from earlier today, “O Revolution, where art thou?,” Sunita concludes:
From an outside point of view, the ‘revolution’ is in danger of failure – if it hasn’t failed already. Mubarak shows no signs of relinquishing the presidency, the emergency laws are still in place and the constitution remains the same. While the regime has been engaging in (unprecedented) talks with the opposition – including the banned Muslim Brotherhood – its grip on power, and the accompanying state security apparatus, is tighter than ever. Insiders at the talks suggest that the government’s mood is hardline, with few real concessions (I heard from one good source that Suleiman’s contribution at one meeting was to read out a pre-prepared statement – when he was questioned on one point, he read out the statement again).
But inside Egypt, the mood is slightly different, at least for the moment. Many feel that real gains have been made, with Egyptians finally sending a clear message to the government, and the world, that they are ready for democracy and willing to fight for it, if necessary. The idea that they have broken the ‘fear barrier’ and the political apathy that dogged them is a powerful one. They trust that Mubarak will fulfil his promises, which will one day pave the way for real democracy and constitutional reform. It is a process that will take time and they are prepared to wait for it.
The country is moving again, but no one knows where it’s heading. In some ways, everything has changed. In other ways, nothing has. It all depends on who you ask.
Sunita’s piece is another one that I recommend reading in its entirety, to get the full effect of her social observations on what’s going on in and around Tahrir square. I also enjoyed her latest post — “10 reasons why a foreigner like me loves Egypt…”
The twitter handle “Mahagaber” was also tweeted to Mona as “one of the women in Egypt covering the revolution.” Scanning through Maha’s latest tweets, the one that has caught my eye straight away is this:
That says so much in so few words.
Got to add Rouelshimi to my twitter feed!
Here’s one from Dima in the afternoon:
“When a nation walks the streets, it heads towards history.” I like that a lot.
@CarlosLatuff The govrmt started a rumor that protesters in Tahrir were getting bribed with free KFC meals to be there. It’s a popular joke.
So funny I forgot to laugh. Mubarak should really quit his day job and become a stand up comedian already.
Another person reports to Mona from Holland and says that there have been “three women (Stienem, van Boon, and Samuel) each discussing Egypt with great knowledge” on a talkshow. A similar comment from Finland, that a woman named Sanna Negus has been doing the Finnish national coverage on Egypt.
President Obama and his Administration appear to have made a familiar deal with the devil in response to the popular pro-democracy uprising in Egypt.
Here’s a tidbit from young college graduate Rana Salem (scroll down under the New Castle section):
Rana Salem, a young graduate of Alexandria University, explained the emergence of the remarkable popular movement in recent weeks. She spoke of both the authoritarianism of Mubrak’s regime and the economic problems – unemployment, insecurity, poverty – driving the revolt. She said of the Egyptian people, “they really are making history – it’s not just a saying”.
Interview with political science professor Mona El-Ghobashy, on the Rachel Maddow Show, Feb 7 (starts around the 1:37 mark):
Slate’s Double X blog already highlighted human rights and democracy activist Ghada Shahbandar and Dakinikat frontpaged that story last week, but a very informative link in reference to Ghada popped up in response to Mona’s query — “Egypt: We Are Watching You, Three Egyptian Women Use the Internet to Promote Democracy“:
Meet the trio: Engi Haddad, a chain-smoking, husky-voiced marketing manager; Bosayna Kamel, a well-known TV news reporter; and Ghada Shahbandar, a university professor. Against the backdrop and momentum of the Kifaya (Enough!) protest movement, these powerful women came together to found Shayfeen.com, a Web site and on-the-ground effort to witness and record the reality of the Egyptian first multi-party election. As journalist Boysana says, their goal was to bring the “real” news to the people, not “their” news.
There are some documentary clips there, too. Give it a look if you have the time.
Over at The Berkeley Blog, anthropology professor Rosemary Joyce has an interesting read up called “Of people and things: Egyptian protest and cultural properties” in response to the idea that we need to protect artifacts in Egypt because they are a “shared global heritage”:
Cairo isn’t Baghdad: the people of Egypt are seeking rights we all cherish, and even as they do, they are trying to protect those things that the rest of the world is too easily elevating over the safety and rights of people.
As an archaeologist, I will regret any losses. But as a human being, I will not agree that we should make the mistake of treating people as less valuable than things.
An interview last week with another anthro professor, Farha Ghannam, called “The rich symbolism of the square in Cairo.” The article opens with the following:
When she first traveled to Cairo for fieldwork in 1993, Farha Ghannam recalled, Tahrir Square was mostly used as a bus depot.
Today, it’s the battleground on which the future of Egypt is being fought – a space rich with symbolism and meaning, held and defended by protesters at the cost of some lives.
“There’s this feeling [among demonstrators] that ‘if we lose at Tahrir Square, we’re going to lose the fight,’ ” said Ghannam, an anthropology professor at Swarthmore College who studies the use of public space in Egypt.
A few more meaty and intriguing reads real quickly (see excerpts in the comments):
Many more names showed up on Mona Eltahawy’s twitter. I tried to gather as many as I could together in one place to give you a sampling of other women’s voices on Egypt you might want to check out:
Maha Azzam via ChathamHouse
Adhaf Soueif (reporting from Tahrir square)
Mona Zulficar (legal)
Felmansy (13 year Egyptian girl living in the US and aspiring to be a reporter)
Missroory (16 years old “Masriya in SF” who wants to follow in Mona’s footsteps)
Well, that’s it for me right now. What are you late-nighters and early morning people reading?