They protested, they fought and they overthrew the rule of Hosni Mubarak. Yes, this is about Egypt, about the rebellion that assured a recovered and enhanced place for the women; the women who have suffered, been tormented, harassed and beaten; the women who deserved righteousness. Egypt, an important region of the Middle East, like its counterparts, believes in building a misogynist society. Mysogyny is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology. It serves as the foundation which leads to the oppression of females in male dominated societies.
I read many stories from Egypt, their tales of revolution, their rules and religious practices and their approach towards women; I was horrified, to say the least. An article from the Foreign Policy disclosed that the Egyptian criminal code legally allows the beating of a woman by her husband if it is done with good intentions. Alas, nobody can clearly figure out what these ‘good intentions’ mean. In Egypt, women are forced to undergo virginity tests in the name of modesty. Likewise, more than 90% of the Egyptian women are compelled to have their genitals cut. There have been umpteen cases in which these women were stripped off their clothes and sexually assaulted. And, this is still going on!
I will begin with this story I read which led to the ‘Blue Bra Revolution’. In December 2011, this picture of a young, delicate and pretty woman shook feminists all over the world. This unidentified woman had to suffer in the hands of the military, when the soldiers tore off her clothes, ripped her ‘hijaab’ (the garment covering a woman’s body, usually worn in Islamic countries) and dragged her by her arms revealing her bright blue bra and a blue jeans that she was wearing under her abaya. This incident provoked women to instigate a protest and demonstration aimed at terminating this oppression against women. The #BlueBra hash tag was used to spread the movement on Twitter. There were more Blue Bra Movements all over. The Egyptian woman with the blue bra has not come forward but she has been criticized for protesting in public and wearing fewer clothes under her hijaab. Her image has become an icon. Saily Quinn of the Washington Post says that the blue bra meant something more radical and significant. She imagined the woman to be feeling- “I may be oppressed. I may not have rights. I may have to cover up my body and face. But you cannot destroy my womanhood. You can’t rob me of my femininity. You can’t take away my power.” This revolution destroyed the military reputation and exposed the truth behind the behavior of the regime towards the women.
Next, is the story of Samaira Ibrahim who was one amongst the seven female protestors arrested from the Tahrir Square in Cairo on March 9, 2011. The protest was a part of the revolt against Mubarak. These women, who were detained by the Egyptian soldiers, were stripped off their clothes and forced to undergo virginity tests. But, Ibrahim couldn’t take this. She fought back, she protested. She sued the Egyptian government for sexual assault. She told certain reporters that these virginity tests were not even conducted in medical clinics, but in full view of the soldiers. She is an activist fighting against the patriarchal society that she has been brought up in. Samaira Ibrahim has also been voted as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by the TIME magazine. On 26 December 2011, the virginity tests were declared illegal in Egypt as a consequence of Samaira’s efforts. But, the verdict on 11th March, 2012 gave a blow to the feminist struggle in the nation. Dr. Ahmed Adel, one of the doctors who conducted these virginity tests was set free by the court. In fact, the allegations in regard with these tests were denied declaring that the tests were never essentially carried out. Ibrahim lost her job and repute just to win this battle against the insensitive establishment but she couldn’t entirely accomplish what she wanted to.
Who can still claim that women enjoy an equal status today? Not in these countries at least where any woman who stands up and fights for justice is confronted and made to suffer. Even Mona Eltahawey, who is an Egyptian American columnist for the Foreign Policy and has written one of my favorite articles based on the ‘Middle–East Women’s Condition’ was beaten-up by the Egyptian Police, breaking her left arm and right hand. She was also sexually assaulted.
On 19th August, 2012, a news story ran which asserted that an Egyptian man beat his pregnant wife for taking off her veil due to the scorching heat. Another man killed his pregnant wife for not voting for Morsi(The Muslim Brotherhood) in the Egyptian Presidential Elections this year.
I will leave you at this; give you time to comprehend and analyze the grim situation. This is not religion, this is not humanity; this is a brutal way of killing a soul; not one but many souls. Many women out there do not get to “live” because they are so occupied trying to “survive” in a world which was never theirs and will never be either. Can we do something?
References: Foreign Policy, New York Times, The Guardian, Wikipedia, Telegraph, Reuters.com, Washington Post, Global Post, Bulletin of the Oppression of Women, Conservative Nation News etc.
Note: I have also read opinions of certain other people, journalists or the local population, who claim that the situation is not as bad in the entire country but the cruelty against women is more dominant in the rural areas of Egypt. I will cover more views in the coming articles. Stay Tuned!