Egypt: Egyptian Human Rights Organizations Stop their Participation in an International Campaign Against Gender Based Violence
Joint Statement -25 November 2011
Today marks the International Day for The Elimination of Violence Against Women, and we as feminist organizations wanted to take part in the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence Campaign by organizing events in Egypt, especially that this year’s theme is challenging Militarism and Ending Violence against Women. This year’s theme was a chance for us to draw attention on the current situation in Egypt and how living under military rule contributes greatly in escalating violence against women by reinforcing patriarchy.
We started planning several activities based on this year’s theme, however, due to the current circumstance and the violations committed against protestors, the organizations signing this statement decided not to take part in the campaign, and to join the protests against police and military forces brutality, and the abuses by the ruling authorities.
For months, injured of the Egyptian revolution have established a sit-in in different areas including Tahrir Square calling for the state to cover their treatment expenses and give them compensations. On Saturday, 19 November, security forces dispersed the injured using violence which provoked people to go back to Tahrir again to support them (like what happened on 28/29 June) against police brutality and military rule.
As the violence continues for the seventh day, the second wave of the revolution is rising against militarism and not only police brutality. The violence that we are facing at the moment from both the police and the military forces is a clear manifestation of the reason we are fighting militarism.
Women in this second wave of the revolution are participating more, although it is more violent, they are challenging the protective circles that are built around them by the patriarchal society. We have witnessed women brought out of the frontline losing conscience due to tear gas, and we have followed cases of women who got detained by security forces and we are in the process of documenting the circumstances in which they were arrested and the violence that was used against them. Also women politicians who were talking on stages in the first wave in January are now standing in the frontline, making human shields and in the field hospitals in the most dangerous areas of the protest – Mohamed Mahmoud Street.
As women’s role changed, people acted differently towards women’s participation, for instance, the women shield march wasn’t met with the aggression of the march for the International Woman Day (8 March), because they are more connected to the needs on the ground.
“In the beginning I was trying to be as close as possible to the frontline so that the number wouldn’t be small, then I decided to help in providing quick medical support to help ease the effect of the tear gas that are being shot on the protestors in Mohamed Mahmoud street. I felt very powerful by the presence of women in the frontline not fearing police brutality and challenging the protective role that men usually play in their lives,” said Yara Sallam - Women Human Rights Defenders Program manager in Nazra for Feminist Studies.
Women at the moment are also developing their role in the public sphere and paying the price for it, women are more at risk and more exposed to gender based violence due to the bigger role in the public sphere. Men are also trying to discourage, to the extent of stopping, women from taking part in the protest or to go to the frontline.
“Monday 21 November we were in the morgue and there was a significant women participation in different roles: trying to collect donations for the burial expenses, lawyers trying to facilitate the logistics and fighting with officials so they wouldn’t complicate the procedure – protecting the rights of the families in autopsy and investigation. Men and women showed sympathy, sentimentality, and compassion; values that the society attributes only to women” said Dalia Abd El-Hamid – Gender and Women Rights Officer in the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
We are fighting, and we will always fight, against militarism, and not forgetting how the army violated women’s bodily rights and dignity by conducting virginity testing on them last March, a court decision should be ruling on this decision of the army on 29 November.
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women we are asking for your support to the Egyptian revolution, in its second wave, to move into a peaceful stage and continue our role in building our country and continue playing our role.
Human Rights Organizations: Nazra for Feminist Studies - The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights - The New Woman Foundation – El-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence – the Women and Memory Forum.