Feminest protesters in Egypt: Activist or Criminal

Were there more than one group protesting their issues alongside everyone else in Egypt? From reading more articles about different activist groups, I realized another group of activists were protesting for social change as well as other issues like needing a democratic leader in power or addressing the police corruption. Those issues took center stage and got most of the global attention. But as mentioned before these women and many others fought for issues just as important during the time of the social revolution happening in Egypt. These feminist activists groups were trying to address and make dramatic social change within their home country with issues like sexual assault, sexual harassment and being label as a criminal without cause.

During the course of reading these articles I noticed that these feminist groups did not get equal attention by the global media as the other issues being addressed during that time. But with closer examination of the article and from information gained from previous discussions of the overall history of the Middle East. I recall the general status quo in most countries in that region that women have severe limits of how they dress, how they interact with the world and their basic rights warped into something unrecognizable. So I am not surprised their issues were not given the equal amount of attention as the other issues. Lastly the only other and in my opinion the most severe factor that has hindered their progress is how some of the controlling governments is labeling them. Once again using the recent social revolution in Egypt as my grounding example for my argument. As I read I observed the different labels that the controlling government were calling these activists and supporters. They were called some of the following: criminals, prostitutes, animals, beasts and terrorists. If you can dehumanize a group of people, it is harder for the general public to relate to them and or rally more individuals to their side. These harmful labels also destroy any legitimate integrity they have and lose their overall credibility.

So in conclusion, in my opinion this small faction of activists are being attacked more than just on a physical level. Some of them are being attacked mentally through harassment and their reputation destroyed in turn. In the end they are taking the charge in a society were women are second class citizens, and in turn fighting to be in equal footing (human rights wise) with the men.

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Feminest protesters in Egypt: Activist or Criminal

Women in the Battle

It is interesting to see how Egypt struggles to gain human rights for their youth, but then you have intersectionality playing a role when it includes between men and women. Women, just like men go out on the ground to protest and spread information on the media. The media uses this trait as a way to either twist the story to seem more appealing or catch the attention of the viewers. Sexual harassment is a common obstacle that the young women face while protesting, but also receive the physical beatings that the men receive. International media is able to mold the concepts that common viewers have of Egyptians and their “intentions” given the attack of a journalist, especially the blonde woman. They don`t focus on the fact that it could have been state officials sent to create a bad public image for those fighting for their human rights. Although there is all this effort for promotion and advocacy of these movements, the outside sources will affect the support gained towards their causes.  Women have to fight not only for the general human rights wanted by the youth but to be heard as individuals and not treated differently based on their gender.

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I would like to focus my project on a feminist issue. I would be open to any kind of media frame because I would like to expand my knowledge on how to create different types of media. I would like to do the readings on women`s rights provided on the website to pinpoint which movement/campaign I would like to focus on.

Women in the Battle

Gender Equality Amongst the Conservative State

I was most interested in reading these articles because they shed a lot of light on the far more underlying stories of gender inequality in Egypt leading up to and during the revolution. The relationship between what was happening on the ground and what was being portrayed in widely read Western media is an extremely important topic to take a closer look at. The article notes that news outlets were quick to vilify Arab men as dangerous, violent protestors while ignoring the true facts behind the events that were happening. For example, the article suggests that perhaps those who were involved in attacking American journalists were acting under the authority or persuasion of the conservative regime. The stories of the women protesting at this time were also completely ignored in Western media.

Reading this made me think a lot about comparing this to the articles we read last week on Khaled Said. The case for Said also suggested that there was information being led out and that the majority of people supporting the cause were ignorantly ignoring many underlying social issues. Connecting this to making the case for Egyptian women during the revolution, their entire presence was being missed, and I think that it had a lot to do with the Western media outlets completely misunderstanding the social makeup and standing of the revolution as it was happening on the ground. Being quick to pass generalized judgements leads to serious discrepancies in our understanding of events. I think that this comparison really underlines the fact that this revolution and process for social change is extremely multi-layered and does not have one answer or lens for looking at these issues.

Gender Equality Amongst the Conservative State

Under the pretext of saving women

In the chapter „Feminist Insurrections and the Egyptian Revolution“ of his book, Paul Amar describes the unjust way in which women (and also men) have been treated by the Arab State Security. Women were sexually harassed and abused by baltagiyya, a group recruited by State Security to wreak havoc and discredit the protesters during the revolution. The apparent plan was to make the protestors look like a group of brutal, sexual predators. However, that image became less convincing when more and more women joined the protests, so instead of the men the women became the target for accusations and were presented as prostitutes.

While some groups like El-Nadeem made serious attempts to help (e.g. by providing medical treatment to victims of gendered or sexual attacks as well as actual sex-workers), others engaged in victim-blaming, such as Salafi organizations telling women to dress appropriately. Stricter laws on sexual harassment might have seemed like a good idea at first, but they could be misused by the police to arrest men for an innocent flirt and thereby lead to mass arrests under the pretext of sexual harassment.

The 2000 UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace, and Security” has to be looked at with caution as well. It is meant to “legalize international armed interventions in response to rape, femicide, sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and peacekeeping operations” (Amar, 2015, 204-205), but can easily serve as an excuse to intervene in foreign affairs.

Even though it is not completely comparable, I couldn’t help but think of the Cologne New Year’s Eve events when reading the article. The responses to those attacks featured equally preposterous advice (e.g. staying an arm length away from men), generalized accusations (e.g. migrant men being banned from a public swimming pool) and others thinking that they know better how to handle the situation (e.g. blaming the police for not handling the situation correctly or the government for having let so many migrants enter the country in the first place). That also extends to parties from other countries, just look at Donald Trump’s response on Twitter. If Trump ever became president of the United States, he could use the UNSCR 1325 to spread his Islamophobia across the globe by intervening under the pretext of saving women.

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My idea for a digital activism campaign is not fully developed yet, but it also targets women’s rights in the Arab world. However, it is important that the campaign would start within the Arab community and is not brought forth by strangers telling them how to live their lives. Arab women could work on raising awareness for their rights, but not target only men but also other Arab women who submitted to a mostly paternalistic society. This is a tricky issue since a lot of values and beliefs are rooted in Islam and it mustn’t be the goal to decry people’s religion. The campaign would try to prevent situations like the following examples from happening:

Woman dies because paramedics barred access to all female campus

Schoolgirls barred from escaping fire

Female ISIS members beat women to death for lifting niqap

Woman tortured for violating dress code

The campaign needs an anchor point and probably also a more narrow focus. As part of the campaign a video could be created that shows a variety of women (some fully veiled, some wearing a headscarf, maybe even some unveiled). First, they all state that they are Muslim or are shown praying or doing something else that clearly portrays them as Muslim and following the rules of the Quran. The message would then shift to expressing that the rules of the Quran stop where people’s lives are being harmed.

Under the pretext of saving women