Thank you to the women of Egypt

A court in Egypt ruled yesterday, December 27, 2011, that imposing `virginity tests’ on women prisoners in military prisons is wrong and unconstitutional. The court is expected to further decide that such tests are completely illegal, which would open the possibility of financial compensation for the wrongs committed.

This is one of two cases filed by Samira Ibrahim and Maha Mohamed, two of the women who had been subjected to the test. The other, equally important case challenges the referral of prisoners to a military court.

The court’s decision was a great one. The greater act, however, was that of Samira Ibrahim, Maha Mohamed, Salwa al-Hosseini and all the women across Egypt who have organized, pushed, repelled attacks, and kept on keeping on. When they have been attacked, they have said, publically, “I tell female activists go to the square and don’t be afraid, this is our square.” And then, they have gone to the square, to all the squares and all the streets.

Women pushed Mubarak out of office, and women today are pushing at more than the military. Egyptian women are pushing at patriarchy itself.

Much of the focus of the last day has been on Samira Ibrahim, a woman who refused to stay silent, refused to submit, refused to behave. While Samira Ibrahim is indeed a courageous and feminist woman, she is not “the woman” behind the ban nor is she “one brave woman.” Rather Samira Ibrahim is one of the women, one of the brave women, who have opposed the assaults on women and continue to do so.

At the beginning of the year, when the women of Egypt pushed Mubarak out, the world watched, and shared and cherished, their names. Today, as the year closes and the women of Egypt assault the very foundations of State patriarchy, we again remind ourselves that behind every individually named women – such as Ghada Kamal Abdel Khaleq, Sanaa Youssef, Samira Ibrahim, Maha Mohamed, Salwa al-Hosseini, Mona Eltahawy, Mona Seif – and behind every named women’s organization, such as Nazra for Feminist Studies or the New Woman Foundation, there is a world of women, on the march.

They know the military, they know the violence, they know the patriarchy, and they reject them, one and all. The women of Egypt are neither surprised nor daunted when a military prosecutor condemns the end to `virginity tests.’ They are, instead, in the streets, affirming their womanhood and their humanity, “I will not give up my rights as a woman or as a human being.”

So, as the year ends, let’s say, as Samira Ibrahim did after she heard the verdict, “Thank you to the people, thank you to Tahrir Square that taught me to challenge, thank you to the revolution that taught me perseverance.” Thank you to the women of Egypt.

 

(Photo Credit: ElMundo.es/AFP)

Tahrir Means Liberation

Today, Saturday, February 5, 2011, the eyes of the world are on Egypt. According to Al Jazeera’s most recent report, the protesters in Tahrir Square are standing their ground, consolidating their gains, and organizing further. Ten thousand pro-democracy protesters showed up outside the main train station in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, as well.

Tahrir means liberation. The people in Tahrir Square have said they will stay until liberation. The people in Tahrir Square are teaching the world a new lesson, the lesson of liberation now and liberation to come. Ask the women of Tahrir Square, ask the youth, ask the workers, ask … everyone.

Another word emerged this week with stunning ease and fluidity: thugs. And a phrase: Mubarak’s thugs.

Yesterday, for example, in a one-hour international news of the week roundup, the National Journal’s Defense Correspondent Yochi Dreazen referred to “pro-Mubarak thugs”, and no one batted an eye, not the NPR host nor the reporters from MBC, the Middle East Broadcasting Center, and from the Washington Post, respectively.

Al Jazeera today reports: “On Friday, Al Jazeera’s offices in Cairo were attacked by “gangs of thugs”, according to a statement from the network. The office was burned, along with the equipment inside it.”

From Tahrir Square itself, Egyptian activists Mona El Seif and Selma Al-Tarzi offer a more detailed picture of thugs. According to El Seif, “We have caught a lot of the thugs….We have searched them. Most of them were one of two things. Either they had police IDs on them …or they were unemployed people that were promised either jobs or money….We know this. We know this since every demo we went to. They always plant thugs and pretend—let them pretend to be civilians, so they can start the violence. I just never saw this amount of violence, this publicly displayed, and nobody stopping it.”

Al-Tarzi added, “The Mubarak thugs were shooting at us with the machine guns. The army shot back at them. Two of them were killed. One of us was killed….More are coming. And we are so tired. People are so tired. We’ve been fighting for the past 12 hours. And we’re just protesters; we’re civilians. We’re protesters.…All we have is stones and sticks. And we’re tired. This is not what we’re here to do. This is not—this is not how—this is a crime of war. They’re killing us.”

Mozn Hassan, Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, tells a similar story: “If the military is ever to be a legitimate national force, it must side with the protesters against Mubarak’s thugs and the police.… It is crucial at this moment in the Egyptian Uprising to understand that this is the Egyptian Army’s moment of truth. As the thousands of unarmed demonstrators are tortured, trampled, firebombed and molested by Mubarak’s thugs, will the military move to protect, or to crush the non-violent democratic movements that have occupied Tahrir Square in Cairo for the last ten days.”

Who are the thugs? They are the police, the are the security forces, they are the baltaguia, “plainclothes thugs from the state security services and gang members on their payroll.” And they are everywhere: Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor. And they are everywhere all the time: protests, labor strikes, elections. They are the body politic of `security’. When it is reported, or rumored, that 90 percent of the `thugs’ caught in Tahrir Square had identity cards linking them to the police, state and Central Security forces, the only surprise was that they were actually carrying the cards. They are the State.

A State that relies on thugs for security, for stability, for well being, for its identity as a nation-State is a thug state. It is a rogue, whose gender “remains generally, as it was originally, masculine”, who knows only the reason of the strongest and the practice of fear: “those who inspire fear frighten themselves, they conjure the very specter they represent. The conjuration is in mourning for itself and turns its own force against itself.”

Tahrir means liberation. The protesters in Tahrir Square, such as Mona El Seif and Selma Al-Tarzi, they are living a form of liberation now, today. Liberation haunts the thugs and the thug states.

 

(Photo Credit: https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com)