Egyptian women walk past a Muslim Brotherhood poster 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
When retrospectively examining the early days of the uprising in Egypt, it
almost seems as if women were deceptively and paradoxically enlisted to the
revolution in order to perpetuate the existing power structure.
women appropriated by powerful male actors that control every sphere of life in
Egypt both to trigger the popular uprisings and to create the appearance of a
genuinely democratic social protest movement, while being systematically
distanced from positions of power? Was the revolution stolen out from under
them? Since February 2011, the international community has watched the dramatic
repression of popular uprisings against tyrannical Arab leaders that ripped
through the Middle East following the deposal of Egypt’s president Hosni
Today, as the first round of elections have taken place and the
transitional government is to be replaced by an elected parliament, it is safe
to assume that the women’s voices heard in the early days have been silenced and
expelled, for now, from the political playing field.
participation was witnessed in the political movement that emerged in the weeks
before Mubarak was removed from office. It is estimated that between 20 to 40
percent of the masses that gathered daily in Tahrir Square were women. This fact
alone is stunning.
The general picture that emerged on Western TV screens
was that a feminist agenda, calling for equality to all, was being voiced by the
With a Western, perhaps naïve approach, this was
interpreted as a proof of the genuine democratic character of the
demonstrations. This Western approach, however, as in other Middle Eastern
scenarios, too easily ignored a long history of conservative political culture,
gravitation towards Islamic tradition, and a classic preference for male
leadership. These are the values storming Tahrir Square right
MUBARAK’S DEPOSAL created a leadership and ideological void, which
new and old political actors rushed to fill. Some 50 political parties declared
their intention to run for parliament. With a crumbling economy and almost half
of Egypt’s population unemployed, naturally the people sought solid leadership
that would change the political system dramatically enough to let people live in
dignity and enjoy modest freedoms.
The two main political powers
competing here are the Islamic-religious vs the secular-military.
where are the women? They’re out of the game, used and abused.The female voices
that not only participated, but triggered the dawn of the revolution, are being
pushed out of Tahrir Square through violent repression.
elements that generated the initial movement, women included, exhibited
genuinely democratic intentions, but failed to consolidate an organized
political structure that could compete against established organizations that
were already entrenched in the power hierarchy.
The secular military and
the Islamic religious organizations share a similar attitude towards women. The
easiest way for them to consolidate power is to distance women from the centers
of power, and preserving power for men is a key element of their ideologies and
The Islamists did not bother to wait to win the elections
before deploying their new order in the streets of Cairo.
several assaults and violent arrests of female reporters and demonstrators, on
November 25, Reporters Without Borders issued an official warning to female
journalists to avoid the Tahrir Square area, the single most important point of
interest for news agencies in Egypt. Arresting, abusing and humiliating women in
order to discourage their presence in public life emerged as a clear
US President Barack Obama stated that no country can fulfill its
true potential when half of its population cannot fulfill its own potential. The
prospect of meaningful change in the position of women in Egypt seems grim, and
one has to wonder how bright the horizon is for Egyptians at the polling
The writer is the founder and executive director of the
New Family organization.