Egyptian Women Update


Dear All —

I know that each of you has been trying to keep track of what has been happening to women active in the Egyptian uprising.  Here’s what I’ve just heard from my friend Nadje Al-Ali. Nadje, as many of you know,  is an Iraqi British feminist scholar, head of the Gender Studies Centre at
SOAS, University or London, and author of some of the best books on Iraqi women’s politics (U of Calif Press; Zed Press). She did her phd in Cairo and her first book was about Egyptian women’s politics. Nadje has stayed in contact with a circle of leftist and feminist Eygyptian friends.

According to Nadje’s Cairo friends, there has been a severe backlash in recent days,
with women often the targets, anti-democracy men attacking and sexually harrassing women, some arrested and abused.In the lead-up to the referendum on the 8 constitutional amendments (drafted by a military-appointed all-male civilian constitutional council), women activists were divided on the question of whether to vote YES (confirming these 8 amendments and a juneparliamentary election ) – or  NO (I.e. Against just these 8 amendments rather than a thorough re-writing of the Constitution, and Against elections for the parliament in June, so soon that the estab party, Mubrarak’s, and the Muslim Brotherhood , would have a huge organizational advantage in campaigning over the younger liberal and left activists, who are only now able to try launching a new electoral party with its own candidates and national network). Nadje says that most of her leftist and feminist women friends voted NO.

But, as you know, the great majority of voters in last week’s  referendum voted YES (there was a 40 percent turn out — that’s 4 times as many as Egyptians as voted in the last Mubarak rigged election — no data re gender breakdown of either turn out or voting choice). Also, despite a really impressive pre-referendum petitioning campaign by independent Egyptian women’s civil society groups and human rts grps, which called for the deletion of one of the 8 amends designed by the all-male council – an amendment that banned from the future presidency “any person married to a non-Egyptian woman” –  an amendment flawed on several counts but esp in that it made the const’l presumption that the Pres. could only be male – despite their efforts, this sexist (and xenophobic — there’s lots of cross-nationality marriage in Egypt) amendment stayed on the ballot – and was part of the all-or-nothing package of amends that passed last week.

Nadje was great to share this with me and so I wanted to pass it on to you.
She says that this remains a dangerous time for Egyptian women, fluid, but
full of risks. So we’ll all need to stay attentive and hopefully share what we learn.
All best wishes to you,


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