Today saw Egypt’s women come out in force to march against the regime’s treatment of female protestors, its policies toward women, the antidemocratic policies of the military junta, and the lack of women’s rights in Egypt generally (see footage below). Today’s protest march was probably the largest march by women in Egypt’s history. (For background on current events in Egypt, see my previous posts under the “Egypt and Revolution” label.)
Women have been highly involved in the uprising from the start, an inspiring display of courage in a highly patriarchal society. Recall that it was this moving video by Asmaa Mahfouz, calling for the protest, that went viral and helped spark the initial show of force against the Mubarak regime in Tahrir.
Also note, very briefly, that the revolution has so far both succeeded and failed. It got Mubarak out; and it gave ordinary Egyptians a deep sense of their rights as citizens and their right to be involved in the government they want.
At the same time, even if a few of the faces at the top have changed, the structure of the dictatorship is still in place, and little has changed there. So the surface structure is mildly more democratic, but the deep structure is not modified in the least. There is still no civilian control over the military; the military commanders still call all the shots regarding foreign affairs (and therefore act as puppets for the US); and society is still heavily policed. So even while there are elections being held, the people are not actually in control of the things that matter, and the military has proven itself ruthless in dealing with any attempt to change that.
In recent weeks, we have seen a series of disgraceful displays of ruthlessness toward protestors on behalf of the postMubarak military, including some widely circulated videos.
In one, military agents are seen dragging the bodies of murdered protestors through the square and into a heap next to the trash pile. In the most famous of the videos, they drag the body by the arm, so that it slides along the pavement through the rubbish.
In a very recent incident, the military is seen beating severely a small number of protestors whom they have surrounded and continue to whack with batons, kick, and stomp upon. At one moment, the seize a woman pinned helplessly on her back, and they yank at her clothes such that her body is frontally exposed while they continue to stomp on her with their boots.
This video immediately went viral among Egyptians and must have been shocking in a society that generally holds deep concerns over a woman’s right to shield her body from public scrutiny, let alone police boots.
Below is some reporting on today’s march:
CAIRO — Several thousand women demanding the end of military rule marched through downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of soldiers beating, stripping and kicking female demonstrators in Tahrir Square.
A woman shouted slogans during the protest Tuesday in Cairo. Chants, some joined by men, included, “Freedom, freedom.”
“Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” they chanted. “Where is the field marshal?” they demanded of the top military officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. “The girls of Egypt are here.”
Historians called the event the biggest women’s demonstration in modern Egyptian history, the most significant since a 1919 march against British colonialism inaugurated women’s activism here, and a rarity in the Arab world. It also added a new and unexpected wave of protesters opposing the ruling military council’s efforts to retain power and its tactics for suppressing public discontent.