A group of Egyptian men yelled, “Go wash clothes! This is against Islam!” while attacking a group of women this week who were part of a demonstration urging Egypt to give women a voice in building its future. Thus a traditional worldview delivers a stinging slap to the women of Egypt who are aspiring for a more modern way of being treated. The violent opposition these women faced suggests that Egyptian women may have to fight their own revolution to achieve equal rights.
“We fought side by side with men during the revolution, and now we’re not represented,” said Passat Rabie, a young woman who came with friends, after men aggressively dispersed the protest. “I thought Egypt was improving, that it was becoming a better country. If it’s changing in a way that’s going to exclude women, then what’s the point? Where’s the democracy?”
The demonstrators, who gathered in Tahrir Square—the epicenter of the revolution—had much to complain about: The military council ruling the country until new elections are held failed to appoint a single woman to the committee tasked with drafting constitutional amendments. One of the proposed constitutional amendments implies that the office of presidency is limited to men by saying that a president cannot be married to a non-Egyptian woman. And the only woman in Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s new government is from Mubarak’s government.
But almost immediately, they were outnumbered and beset upon by men who gathered. Some of the men were from the protesters’ encampment in the middle of the square.
Dozens of women engaged in arguments with the men, who said that they had enough rights already; that now was not the time to demand inclusion. Some of the men were polite, yet many were aggressive. Soon, a large group gathered in front of the protest, shouting it down with insults. A sheikh from Al Azhar was hoisted on mens’ shoulders, chanting against the female protestors.
“Go home, go wash clothes,” yelled some of the men. “You are not married; go find a husband.” Others said, “This is against Islam.” To the men demonstrating with the women, they yelled “Shame on you!”
Suddenly, the men decided they had had enough. Yelling, they rushed aggressively upon the group, pushing violently through the rows of people. The protestors scattered. Eyewitnesses said they saw three females being chased by a male crowd. A surge of men followed them, and Army officers fired shots into the air to make the men retreat.
Click here to read a related blog post I recently submitted: Why Does Democracy and Freedom in Egypt Leave Out Women?
Click here to read more on this story in the Christian Science Monitor.