Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Both American and Middle Eastern papers reported the surge of women’s involvement in the Egyptian revolution. The New York Times reported how the revolution brought an odd mixture of participates together such as “housewives and fruit sellers, businesswomen and students” with approximately 250,000 of the protesters being women. Of this quarter of a million protestors, the women were “veiled and unveiled” welcomed alongside the men of their country as they focused on “upending traditional expectations” on women. They were successful within the revolution, but then faced the challenge of maintaining “their involvement …..so that their contribution to the revolution” would not be pushed aside and forgotten.
Al Arabiya brought out the courage it took for Bothaina Kamel to run for the presidential position in Egypt. It reported her words of the brave women who stood against bullets and faced death to usher in a new era for the ancient country. The report acknowledged Ms. Kamel’s opposition in the strong Islamist groups that would “make her job much harder” with her being a woman. The newspaper did not ignore the position of women nor their attempts at gaining a foothold in Egyptian politics and culture.
Even prior to the revolution, it was noted how the role of women was getting worse in both papers. Women who applied to positions of leadership such as being judges were told “that women’s emotional disposition and maternal duties rendered them unfit” to perform the duties. Their requests were denied but not completely unheard. The ruling denying them the positions was overturned but action was never taken to actually initiate the change into a reality. Women were pushed aside again and ignored while verbally being assured of changes in their position.
Many within the Middle Eastern media downplayed the abuse of the women during the Egyptian revolution while holding up the important role of the same women that participated in the historical event. American newspapers reported how many women who protested “have suffered sexual assaults at the hands of Egyptian soldiers protected by military courts.” National human rights organizations record documents showing more than a hundred women had suffered at the hands of the new government with approximately eighty losing their lives at the hands of the temporary military government.
Traditionally, Egyptian women were to keep silent if they were sexually assaulted. The purpose of the silence was to ensure finding a good husband and to remain in polite society. A woman who was assaulted was a disgrace to her family and considered to have asked for it. In the case of Ms. Ibrahim, the media in her own country turned on her while her own countrymen and women threatened her very life for speaking out about her treatment at the hands of the soldiers. She was to have remained quiet and not have brought up such a shameful subject. The nation might have celebrated the advancements for women after the revolution, but it did so while holding the women down with their unyielding religious and cultural boots.