The ongoing protests in Egypt have brought together men, women, and children in what appears as a sincere effort by the Egyptian people to rid their country of a dictator who ruled Egypt for 30 years. The shared yearning for democracy seems to have created an inclusive environment where women and children stand together as equals with men to confront the riot police.
This is meaningful because Egypt is well-known for providing few to none protections against sexual harassment for women. In 2008, 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women had experienced some kind of sexual harassment. Many feared that the protests would create the perfect environment for sexual harassment, to the point of predicting a sexual molestation day. Fortunately, these fears were unwarranted.
When 29-year-old Dalia Ziada, a popular Egyptian blogger, took to the streets of Cairo to protest this week, she saw an astonishing sight: In the crowds were university students and mothers with families in tow-a diverse mix of women marching and chanting, and running from the police.
During Friday’s mass demonstrations, women also participated, vocally and visibly, in what became a brutal standoff with authorities. (Police reportedly used tear-gas, rubber-bullets and water-cannon against the protesters.)
“Men and women are standing side-by-side in calling for their rights,” said Ziada in a telephone interview, before the government cut all cell phone connections.
This air of inclusiveness has surrounded Egypt’s upheaval from the start, with protesters highlighting the movement’s “purity” and lack of religious or political agenda beyond democratic reform. Women, who in Cairo are often groped in the streets, report that other demonstrators have been remarkably respectful. …
On the street and online, “Purity”-be it political or sexual-has become a rallying cry.
Also check out Dalia Ziada’s pictures featuring many more powerful images of women protestors, similar to the one pictured in this post on Seif Lofty’s blog.
Let’s hope that the respect shown to women during the protests will continue to be upheld in the Egyptian regime and culture after the protests end.