Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Power of Women's Anger

Social and political expression are not an invitation to aggressive and physical abuse and manhandling. No one should be subjected to that, and in a part of the world that upholds the dignity of every human being and especially women, it is especially painful when it happens as it did in Cairo on May 25th. Coming on the heels of the prisoner abuse in Iraq and Cuba by the Americans, seeing it occur on the streets of Cairo and directed against Egyptian women for merely voicing their views by Egyptian men sympathetic to the regime, the shame is palpable. Indeed, it is so palpable that women in Cairo are taking to the streets in protest demanding the resignation of top police and security officials in response to the indecent physical abuse some women faced as they protested against the referendum on the constitutional amendment supposedly allowing multi-candidate presidential elections. Getting the women of Egypt to rise up in anger is quite a feat, but the government has managed to do just that. This sleeping giant has now awaken and the outcome may be more powerful than all the recent political opposition together. Not only is it fodder for the opposition, but it also serves to unite women of all political stripes and persuasions across the range from the majority apolitical to the minority ultra activist, from the majority religious moderate to the minority raving extremist.

When I saw the stories of the women being abused, I shook my head in disbelief. Not in Egypt, I thought. I received more emails expressing the same sentiment than on any other aspect of the recent political events in Egypt. But I ask myself, why the disbelief? Is not Egypt one of the preferred destinations for American and European interrogators to send prisoners? Before the events of September 2001, the US and European governments routinely gave sanctuary to political activists including religious extremists from Egypt and other countries in the Middle East. These individuals, some of whom are believed to have committed terrorist acts in Egypt, were given political asylum to avoid the torture that they claimed waited for them in Egyptian prisons. After September 2001, the Egyptian government was practically saying 'I told you so'. Today, prisoners are sent to Egypt and other places in the region to be 'interrogated' away from media scrutiny or legal recourse. The implicit argument is that individual human dignity and democratic values can take a back seat to protecting the public (an argument, it is often claimed, to also be embodied in the US Patriot Acts).

So, why the surprise and dismay when it happens openly on the streets of Cairo? Perhaps because it happened openly, or perhaps for a simpler reason. The women abused on the streets of Cairo are the mothers, wives and daughters of Egypt. In Egypt, as in most places, honor and dignity of women is sacrosanct, and their defiling will not be left unanswered. The anger of the Egyptian women demands a response. Egyptian men will unite behind that, and that is a two-legged giant.

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Blogger Jawad said...

I think you got it right Dhalia when you said: "This sleeping giant has now awaken and the outcome may be more powerful than all the recent political opposition together." Look, this generation, which you and I are part of, refuses to just take our beating and go home. We dare to say ENOUGH now. We are now locked in a huge struggle between those who want to maintain the status quo and those of us who dare to tell them that the status quo is no longer acceptable - That's what differentiates our generation from those past and thanks to the info tech revolution we now can beam our voice across the globe in mere seconds.

5:03 PM  

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