Dear Kenneth Roth,

In your Introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2012, “Time to Abandon the Autocrats and Embrace Rights,” you urge support for the newly elected governments that have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt. In your desire to “constructively engage” with the new governments, you ask states to stop supporting autocrats. But you are not a state; you are the head of an international human rights organization whose role is to report on human rights violations, an honorable and necessary task which your essay largely neglects.

"The power of women is in their stories. They are not theories, they are real lives that, thanks to social networks, we are able to share and exchange," said Egyptian-American activist Mona el-Tahawey, kicking off a summit that brought more than a hundred of the Middle East's leading female activists together in Cairo.

When the topic of “taboos” surfaces in our region, what immediately comes to mind are all issues related to sexu- ality. Then the question becomes, “whose responsibility is it to address such taboos?” My answer: all of us, yours and mine together.

The Egyptian elections delivered a parliament that has one of the lowest rates of female representation in the world. Yet this is the parliament that expresses the political will of the people of Egypt. It may also be one that ignores the social realities of gender and of women’s political participation, says Hania Sholkamy.

Under the banner of “No Spring without Women,” a Lebanese feminist organisation has organized a march in Beirut, as part of the 5th New Arab Woman Forum. The slogan of the march is “Sawa Sawa”, which in this context means “Let’s walk together, let’s make it together”, calling for a Spring that includes both men and women. Before getting the invitation to this march, my mind was already preoccupied with the future of Arab women after the revolutions and how women’s status might be impacted in each of the Arab countries. My concern is: can there be Arab union or organisation to sustain Arab women’s status in the post-revolution era?

Avez-vous remarqué la soudaine disparition des femmes de ce paradoxal printemps arabe depuis qu'il a tourné au vert, la couleur de la victoire islamiste ? C'est à croire que le scénariste n'a prévu pour elles que les larmes, la douleur et les chants funèbres du dernier quart d'heure des despotes. Elles étaient pourtant très comme il faut sur les images des télévisions occidentales et conformes aux canons en vigueur concernant le port vestimentaire.

Despite an increasing feeling of empowerment experienced by many Egyptian women during and after the revolution, they continue to be sexually harassed and abused by men in public on a daily basis, as recent coverage of events in Cairo—from “virginity tests” conducted by the military to male assaults on female protesters—illustrated.

It is a problem that long predates the Arab Spring. In 2008, a survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that a staggering 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women were exposed to sexual harassment in Egypt.

Twenty years ago today Algeria’s military-backed government stopped the country’s electoral process, preventing the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) from coming to power and dismantling the Algerian republic – something it had openly promised to do. In context, this was the better of the two bad alternatives available at that moment – interrupting a flawed parliamentary election rather than allowing the reins of power to be taken by fascists who openly proclaimed their opposition to democracy.

The human body has been front and center of this revolution since the early days of its outbreak last January.  Even though the  leading slogan of the revolution,  

Vigilante gangs of ultra-conservative Salafi men have been harassing shop owners and female customers in rural towns around Egypt for “indecent behavior,” according to reports in the Egyptian news media. But when they burst into a beauty salon in the Nile delta town of Benha this week and ordered the women inside to stop what they were doing or face physical punishment, the women struck back, whipping them with their own canes before kicking them out to the street in front of an astonished crowd of onlookers.

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