The Women in the Square

Women protestors, Cairo, 28 January 2011. Photo by Sarah Carr

One of the most inspiring sights seen in Tahrir Square this eventful February have been groups of Egyptian women who have braved riots and intimidation by pro-Government forces to join the protests.

At a time, when fundamentalist forces in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan are trying to drive women out of the public sphere, the actions of Egyptian women demonstrate the vitality of women striving for a political voice.

Even while human rights groups have reported casualties as high as 300 and protesters gathered in the square have suffered everything from being charged by horses to being shelled by tear gas and live ammunition, Egyptian women have remained visible and refused to be intimidated.

In addition to providing the world with a testament to the vibrant energy of Egyptian women, their participation has also demonstrated that it is grassroots activism rather than top down quotas that ultimately give women a voice in politics.

In late June of last year the Mubarak Government passed a law creating a special quota for women’s participation in politics.  Reserving a set number of seats for women in the Lower House of Parliament the law aimed at increasing women’s participation in the public sphere.  However, according to Fatma Emam, an editor for Nazra an Egyptian journal for feminist studies, the visibility of women in the protests at Tahrir Square has done far more for promoting empowerment and political awareness among Egyptian women than the reserved quota ever did.  Fatma says:

“The women in Tahrir Square have proven that they can fight and overcome the weak participation of women when they see that they are equal in protest and that their destiny is tied to the country like everyone else”.

The solution in her words is not a paternalistic top down quota but the fight against patriarchy in every household and street led by ordinary women.

As women continue to stream into Tahrir Square, the world can see the face of an emerging Egypt that is male and female, Muslim and Christian and united in its call for civil rights and institutional reform.  This new generation of Egyptian women so bravely defying the dictates of patriarchy and emerging on the streets of Cairo are a message to the world that their identities cannot be simply reduced to their faith or their headscarf.

As their voices echo in the Square and their bravery is seen by millions around the world, they make a powerful statement for the ubiquity of the quest for equality and empowerment.

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26 thoughts on “The Women in the Square

  1. change will come soon on this countries. Women influence will play a very important role in the Middle East. Just is needed end the theocracy that oppress and enslave them.
    Religion should stay out of politics and power. On this countries, It is a very difficult way for women reach development and emancipation but this social movements that are generating these changes will bring soon Women's Liberation. As long as the laws are set from the popular consensus and not from the religious powers.

  2. I am worried that if the Muslim Brotherhood gets even partial power these strong, brave women will be beaten back into the stone age. Why are these people so cruel to women? If it was any minority, Serbs for instance, that had to be covered head to foot, could be murdered without justice, was not allowed out into public without supervision. If this happened to any group of men the world would rise up in protest. I'm no rabid feminist, far from it, but the way they treat women is beyond comprehension, why doesn't the world react to that??

  3. change will come soon on this countries. Women influence will play a very important role in the Middle East. Just is needed end the theocracy that oppress and enslave them.
    Religion should stay out of politics and power. On this countries, It is a very difficult way for women reach development and emancipation but this social movements that are generating these changes will bring soon Women’s Liberation. As long as the laws are set from the popular consensus and not from the religious powers.

  4. I am worried that if the Muslim Brotherhood gets even partial power these strong, brave women will be beaten back into the stone age. Why are these people so cruel to women? If it was any minority, Serbs for instance, that had to be covered head to foot, could be murdered without justice, was not allowed out into public without supervision. If this happened to any group of men the world would rise up in protest. I’m no rabid feminist, far from it, but the way they treat women is beyond comprehension, why doesn’t the world react to that??

  5. Dear Mel,
    I'm completely agree with you, What kind of human being can punish a woman by means of humiliation and murder? Stoning is the epitome of human cruelty and sadism. These men have no moral or religious ideology. They Simply acting out of pure malice and resentment.
    All what they want is to provoke and hurt the world public opinion.
    I really hope we can stop these dangerous devils that have taken religion to kill and oppress.

  6. Dear Mel,
    I’m completely agree with you, What kind of human being can punish a woman by means of humiliation and murder? Stoning is the epitome of human cruelty and sadism. These men have no moral or religious ideology. They Simply acting out of pure malice and resentment.
    All what they want is to provoke and hurt the world public opinion.
    I really hope we can stop these dangerous devils that have taken religion to kill and oppress.

  7. what women as well as the whole Egyptian seekers of Freedom must realize that even Mubarak regime was calling themselves democratic ! So do most of the oppressive regimes at many parts of the world. Hence,people should guard against another man and another regime comes to power with the same fake values and priorities that the older one had !
    Word is yet to have, and get introduced to true democracy. It is about everyone valuing the rights and freedom of the other person – -not using democracy as a tool to come to power, and fulfill his/their subconscious dreams of becoming a King like RULER one day ! Like to share a glimpse at what could be a true democracy with out political parties at link :http://www.blogger.com/profile/14249415589712707293 (see blog 'a democracy without political party system')

  8. what women as well as the whole Egyptian seekers of Freedom must realize that even Mubarak regime was calling themselves democratic ! So do most of the oppressive regimes at many parts of the world. Hence,people should guard against another man and another regime comes to power with the same fake values and priorities that the older one had !
    Word is yet to have, and get introduced to true democracy. It is about everyone valuing the rights and freedom of the other person – -not using democracy as a tool to come to power, and fulfill his/their subconscious dreams of becoming a King like RULER one day ! Like to share a glimpse at what could be a true democracy with out political parties at link :http://www.blogger.com/profile/14249415589712707293 (see blog 'a democracy without political party system')

  9. what women as well as the whole Egyptian seekers of Freedom must realize that even Mubarak regime was calling themselves democratic ! So do most of the oppressive regimes at many parts of the world. Hence,people should guard against another man and another regime comes to power with the same fake values and priorities that the older one had !
    Word is yet to have, and get introduced to true democracy. It is about everyone valuing the rights and freedom of the other person – -not using democracy as a tool to come to power, and fulfill his/their subconscious dreams of becoming a King like RULER one day ! Like to share a glimpse at what could be a true democracy with out political parties at link :http://www.blogger.com/profile/14249415589712707293 (see blog 'a democracy without political party system')

  10. What you Westerners don't understand that this is NOT something unheard of. Arab women, whether Muslim or not, are very strong individuals. It is not a surprise to me at all that they're participating in the riots. I was hoping this article would open your eyes because I'm sick of seeing comments about Arab women being beaten down. We are the most vivacious, characterful women I've ever met. Believe it.
    -an Arab woman

  11. what women as well as the whole Egyptian seekers of Freedom must realize that even Mubarak regime was calling themselves democratic ! So do most of the oppressive regimes at many parts of the world. Hence,people should guard against another man and another regime comes to power with the same fake values and priorities that the older one had !
    Word is yet to have, and get introduced to true democracy. It is about everyone valuing the rights and freedom of the other person – -not using democracy as a tool to come to power, and fulfill his/their subconscious dreams of becoming a King like RULER one day ! Like to share a glimpse at what could be a true democracy with out political parties at link:http://www.blogger.com/profile/14249415589712707293 (see blog ‘a democracy without political party system’)

  12. What you Westerners don’t understand that this is NOT something unheard of. Arab women, whether Muslim or not, are very strong individuals. It is not a surprise to me at all that they’re participating in the riots. I was hoping this article would open your eyes because I’m sick of seeing comments about Arab women being beaten down. We are the most vivacious, characterful women I’ve ever met. Believe it.
    -an Arab woman

  13. Layla,
    you have your legitimate right to defend the Arab woman, I think you're right, because both in Europe and America, many people think that all Muslims are equal. Sometimes we receive wrong information or a lack of it, about your culture, religion and customs.
    Nobody generalizes and talk about Arab women and their culture and particularly Egyptians. I am convinced that every day on all society are breaking frontiers and achieving more freedom. Globalization has led us to the exchange and equal rights
    But in some countries as "Afganistan" Women shouldn't go out alone, shouldn't talk to any man, shouldn't go to college or University, can't give birth in a hospital, must wear burka…, they can't express their ideas, not even know what internet is, and despite their strong individuality, vivacity and kindness, they don't have freedom.
    Someone without freedom is none or nothing. Don't forget them, dear. This women might need your force y clearly's opinión.

  14. Layla,
    you have your legitimate right to defend the Arab woman, I think you’re right, because both in Europe and America, many people think that all Muslims are equal. Sometimes we receive wrong information or a lack of it, about your culture, religion and customs.
    Nobody generalizes and talk about Arab women and their culture and particularly Egyptians. I am convinced that every day on all society are breaking frontiers and achieving more freedom. Globalization has led us to the exchange and equal rights
    But in some countries as “Afganistan” Women shouldn’t go out alone, shouldn’t talk to any man, shouldn’t go to college or University, can’t give birth in a hospital, must wear burka…, they can’t express their ideas, not even know what internet is, and despite their strong individuality, vivacity and kindness, they don’t have freedom.
    Someone without freedom is none or nothing. Don’t forget them, dear. This women might need your force y clearly’s opinión.

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  17. The presence of women Tahrir Square is a testament that cultural changes is happening and it is not a barrier for freedom of expression and choice. It is very encouraging that women are showing their force despite the used traditions that women are not allowed to participate in political activities. Women in the front lines means they had enough of the treatment and the abuse of power by men in their country.

  18. The presence of women Tahrir Square is a testament that cultural changes is happening and it is not a barrier for freedom of expression and choice. It is very encouraging that women are showing their force despite the used traditions that women are not allowed to participate in political activities. Women in the front lines means they had enough of the treatment and the abuse of power by men in their country.

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