Mar 8, 2011

Faggots for Whores? Or What happened to Women March in Tahrir

Although I am still deeply agitated over what happened today at the women march today in Tahrir, I have to give my personal account as a male who went there to support women’s rally for freedom and democracy.

First, since the call for the march on Facebook, we have got a lot of negative comments either being sarcastic of the whole thing or others who want us to postpone it for later. I am really trying to comprehend the “Let’s save it for later” argument. Is it really concern for stability? Or is it internalized patriarchy that sees women issue as trivial?

So we get together in Tahrir, a few hundreds of women and men. We started to distribute flyers mentioning our demands which were:

I know the demands would be controversial and we expected strong debates at the protest, but what happened in reality was much worse than any of us expected. 

The flyer had the following demands:

1. Women's participation in shaping Egypt's constitutional, legal and political future.

2. A new civil constitution that respects citizenship, espouses equality and abolishes discrimination.
3. Amending laws so that it give full equality and rights, including personal status law.
4. Not allowing women's reproductive role to take over her participation in public and private life.
5. Establishing law for criminalization of violence against women inside and outside their home.
6. The constitution must allow women to run for presidency.

We started chanting for women rights. Just as we started chanting a group of couple hundred men started gathering and then started the chant race! They said: The man is a man and the woman is a woman; you are the children of Suzan Mubarak; Go home women!

We tried to chant back singing the national anthem and saying “Men and women are one hand”. They seemed very provoked by our mere existence and their looks were full of sarcasm and ridicule. Apparently the possibility of women running for presidency was beyond their misogynous ego.

The shocking part is that they used Islamic chants against us saying “Women’s voice is a shame”, “why didn’t God send female prophets?” This was quickly followed by rounding us up and pushing against us and ugliness followed. Women and girls were groped, their hair got pulled; dirty harassers hands were all over their bodies. I did my best to protect my friends and we got into physical and verbal fights.

I was called a faggot defending whores. I was told I wasn’t Egyptian for doing this.

So now. Some accuse us of being too controversial. Some accuse us of using the wrong time and place to voice our grievances. Until when would we remain silent? And till when we will be too shy to call for women rights? I am not sorry I called for justice. I am just really appalled but what my friends had to go through. We managed to get our voices heard for once, and it won’t be the last time.

I hope what happened today will shed some light on the unacceptable attitudes towards women. More men need to speak out for women too. This will definitely help our cause.

 The battle is hard. Mubarak’s regime and authoritarianism destroyed people’s sense of diversity. It may take years to actually change attitudes. I think we are up for it though. 


  1. Few comments: 1- I am with women rights all the way and have no doubt they will get it in Egypt .. 2- I was against the timing, in such instability, we should all go in streets for the things that unite us, and this subject, as you know have many oppositions .. so what is the difference between this and the people that are asking for raise, and strikes etc etc .. while it is not possible now .. unless you tell me, you are with strikes and demonstration everyday .. we are in transformation phase .. not a simple reform, it requires some kind of setting priorities ... and believe security is number one .. and the march today was not helping in that direction. 3- I believe in better egypt and sure, the demands and rights will come .. and soon .. thanks for the article

    1. The time WAS now. Women have been getting sexually assaulted in the protests recently. What, should these people, who want political change, just watch as their friends or they themselves are assaulted, raped, and beaten?! Women's rights are part of political progress, and women's rights are one of many things being violated and fought for. The time IS now.

  2. I really admire you!
    Those who say, "not now," when is the time for all to have human rights? Is it straight Muslim men first and everyone else has to get in line? I saw someone trivialize the women's rights discussion earlier today or last night. A just society grants human rights to all. (pls excuse anon. comment, I'm @Masriyah25)

  3. Very sad, what happened. These things take time. But it's never the "wrong time" to demand human rights. And for the fools who were quoting verses from the Quran to fight you, they have no idea what they're talking about. Islam gives the woman all the same respect and rights that men have. What a shame..God willing, Egypt will get there one day

  4. Ya Allah!! I am so sorry and angry this happened to you - to ALL OF YOU! I will KIND OF AGREE that we have to concentrate on what unites us, but I am also of the mindset of "If not now...when?"

    Masr is dealing with so much. I do believe that it comes in stages, that is simply the progression of things. The major issue dividing masr is deen, that is the hurdle we need to overcome and have a secular gov't. Once secular rule is established women's rights will have a much easier time of being established in the mindset of the people. Right now they are locked in time and history, we need to push forward.

  5. Honestly...I don't know what to say...I never think about a person based on a sex or religion...I don't think shocking the egyptian society is the way to go..I don't think that this should turn to be a revolution against the society values..after implementing a democratic regime the full spectrum of human rights can be achieved through education and other acceptance...we don't know how to disagree or have different political point of views yet...starting getting into taboos and imposing secularism as an alternative for a pretty conservative country may lead a lot of people to embrace more radical views of the religion....I think that slowly and through education will definitely be more effective...not everything in life can be done the revolutionary way... Extremism for religious or liberal values will lead to a mess....

  6. The time is now. Women need to be fully recognized as people in the law and in the process of the creation of New Egypt. If women's demands are pushed to the side yet again, they will stay to the side. This time to push is now.

  7. To all sisters in the struggle, happy 100th International Women's Day!!!

  8. Gender equality strikes at the core of the deeply rooted system of injustice and oppression that has afflicted us for centuries. We must expect it would result in extreme reactions by men and women who are dominated by the ideology of oppression.

  9. Ahmed
    Thank you for this honest account which should be posted everywhere. The revolution is for freedom and equality. Therefore its logic demands equality for women too.

    I hope the courageous women and men who organised this protest organise another one very soon and demand that the male youth leaders (Amr Salah, Ahmed Maher, Wael Ghoneim) join it.

    (By the way, can you edit your post so as to include the demands on your flyers? They are missing at present.)

  10. Outrageous. these "men" are Neanderthals. They should go back to the caves they crawled out of.

  11. Ann Baker - Athens GreeceMarch 9, 2011 at 1:47 AM

    As a Western elderly woman I do admire you and I agree that for Women especially in the Middle East and Africa you need the support of more men. I also think that this will take time, and the older poorly educated generation will find these changes difficult to handle. We all hope that this is the start of a democratic system in Egypt and now that it has started they can't turn back the tide. As for the men that attacked you, they will be the losers. All the world is reading what happened and I'm sure that many Egyptians feel ashamed. Next year you will have far more support. Good Luck

  12. Don't listen to those who claim to support women's rights, but insist that just "the timing is wrong". If you go by that, there will never be a right time, there will always be new excuses why the time is not right. It's now or never.

    It's funny really. In Norway, March 8 is always spent debating whether or not we still need an International Women's Day. Alas, we do, in Egypt, in Norway, and everywhere in the world.

    You have our support.

    (PS: I would also like to see the demands, they seem to be missing from the post. Arabic or English, it doesn't matter).

  13. If only half of the people have freedom then the nation is not free, women are either equal citizens with full rights or they're not. watching the revolution as it unfolded in Egypt was inspiring because everyone was involved, men, women,children don't sully that by asking some of your citizens to forgo their rights even for a while

  14. Ahmed, thank you for this information,and for your support of your sisters. I spent all day yesterday trying to get information about the women's march-it was hard to find- which was upsetting in itself- and when it came, late, and in tweets, I cried to see the spirit of Tahrir polluted by the ignorance of your opponents.Anyone who thinks women's rights are a minority issue needs a basic maths lesson. Half the population is not a minority.And the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day is a perfect time for women to demonstrate. You and the young of Tahrir are a beacon of light in the world.It's a light that may be obscured temporarily..but it will never go out!

  15. Something caught y eye on sunday,and I started reading about the plight of many foreign female workers in arab lands. I can't believe in 2011 that any group of people are treated this way.I dont understand Islam how could God condone this way of life,how could any of you exspect respect from the rest of the world, It makes me so sad I"m praying for all the women and their sons who keep their feet on them what a horrible place

  16. Thanks for this courageous account. You are leaders of different kind of Revolution and your pioneering spirit will take all of you, and the rest of the world, to places you cannot yet imagine....

  17. Speaking from experience I must say that many if the things that happened in Egypt and Libya remind me of the 1979 Iranian revolution. Do NOT give in and do NOT postpone demanding your rights for later. It's now or never. If you do give in, the same thing that happened in Iran will happen to you. While there is no Islamist agenda now, if you do give in, they will hijack your movement and you will end up with forced dress code for women and another form of tyranny replacing the one you just toppled.
    Power to you. Stay united, Stay strong.

  18. I think it's extremely important to establish women's rights now for two reasons. The first is that you are currently implementing massive legal constitutional changes. If you do not establish equality during this rewriting period, total equality - equal pay, rights to children in event of divorce, domestic violence and rape prosecution, right to home in case of domestic violence, representation in parliament eg a minister for solely for women would be appropriate as you have a lot to deal with and another one for children (disgracefully, we only got a separate one for children recently in the UK) - all this stuff, if not done now, especially legally equality and rape/divorce/pay/inheritance legislation, will have to removed bit by bit, like building a house brick by brick. It'll take decades. Whereas at the moment you can just strike out whole laws or include legal equality when drafting new ones.
    The other important reason is that no 'revolution' in the middle east has been accomplished without women or has neglected to oppress them even worse than before when it was finished. Algerian independence, hello? Iranian revolution, you too? Women were especially prominent in those. Historically, dictatorships offer up women for men to oppress as compensation for being oppressed themselves outside the home. I know we all hope it's going to be different this time, but if you don't 'strike while the iron is hot' (shape iron while it is just out the fire and malleable) then it won't be. Good luck to you, as i can't exactly help from Wales, sorry:(

  19. kcparsley@gmail.comMarch 9, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    Solidarity from Devon in England...we are half the world.We are watching the Arab Spring and want
    justice for women everywhere.Love and peace.

  20. It's all about the price of bread, the rest is fantasy.

  21. Can I follow the above quote "Future generations owe you a lot. "

  22. Thanks for the very helpful post and for demonstrating. Maia makes very good points. It's interesting that the liberation protesters found it very easy to be non-sectarian and non-sexist during the protests, and now it's not hard to rewrite the constitution in a non-sectarian way, but it's hard to rewrite the constitution in a non-sexist way. (BTW I don't understand the fuss about the no-foreign-first-ladies clause; should be easy for Egyptian women to comply with that.) If they could give up sexism for three weeks they can do it a little longer.

    Demand 4 is probably the one that frightens people most. Look to Scandinavia on this. Nothing is more important than the quality of children's lives; the whole question must be handled positively. Women understand this; it is terrible that so often the best available chance for our children means tolerating awful conditions for their mothers.

    Oppression is oppression. It poisons all of society. The more men participate in an oppressive system at home, the more they will be willing to participate in an oppressive system of government. If you want your full dignity as a human being, you must be willing for other to have it as well.

    Preaching to the converted! May God reward you, Brother Ahmed.

    White American woman, no Middle Eastern background
    Los Angeles

  23. Anyone who lacks the courage to stand up and fight for his or her own personal freedom deserves to live in slavery.

  24. To all those who are trying to pull the 'not now' argument, change needs to begin with the legal framework, and go hand by hand with a complete reform in the educational system. If 'now', the time when Egypt is drafting a new constitution and pushing for complete legislative reform, is not the time ... WHEN IS THE TIME? REALLY?!!
    you are right, changing the law is not a solution to inequality and backward thinking, but it's sure as hell a big step in the right direction! Egypt and the rest of the Arab World needs to start somewhere, and 'NOW' is more possible and promising than ever.

    Respect from Palestine

  25. I am a western european male. i believe the ethos of the post revolution time is forged in the revolution itself. Revolutions fail when these spontaneous and natural 'groupings' are crushed by the new post revolution rulers. part of me cant believe that men who stood alongside women during the revolution should turn against them and revert to their patriarcal ways once the president has gone. It may be true or a generalisation.
    Revolutions are a time of flux, things ebb & flow as challenging ideas abound, even more challenging in a country with state supported sexism.
    Keep at it - i'm sure the message will get across if you dont give up. Good luck.

  26. The shocking part is that they used Islamic chants against us saying “Women’s voice is a shame”, “why didn’t God send female prophets?”

    I don't find that shocking at all. Religion is the root of all sorts of biases and bigotries. The so-called "holy books" themselves are full of biases so of course their adherents will quote from them as a moral basis for their behavior. When religion is discarded in the dust-heap of failed worldviews we will all be a lot better off. Sadly, it won't happen in our lifetimes.

  27. A different SuzanneMarch 9, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Voz Earl, it's a shock because in the Qur'an God says over and over that its provisions and instructions are for men and for women.

  28. There is no freedom and no justice in a society unless it extends to all. Selective freedoms and selective justice are simply oppression by a different name.
    The thugs who unleashed this violence will be written in the history books as the quislings who betrayed not only universal human rights but also as having betrayed the Egyptian people's aspriations for freedom.

  29. I wish you well.

    Perhaps get ten thousand grandmothers with brooms to sweep the square clean.

  30. In travelling to Egypyt I witnessed at firts hand the misogynistic attitudse to women.

    Keep protesting if you can. It maay be a long struggle but consider this in the UK women only got the vote after a prolonged campaign by the suffragete movement. My heart is with you

    Paul (London)

  31. Way to stand up for what you believe in! Great job, bring pepper spray next time.

  32. Good luck, but I think it would be advisable for women to leave now. A quick google around at other Islamic countries should make what will happen obvious. Sorry, but it will not end up well.

  33. I truly respect you. I love your blog and it gives me hope to see that people like you actually exist in Egypt. You tackle social issues and taboos very well.

  34. To the commenter who stated: "we are in transformation phase .. not a simple reform, it requires some kind of setting priorities"

    How is the equality of all Egyptian citizens not the FIRST priority? Is that not what everyone is fighting for, above all? Equal representation in parliament and the chance for every voice to be heard, rather than being led by one man in a dictatorship?

    If women's rights are considered a smaller priority, we will see the reformation and new constitution - happening NOW - written entirely by men. Then how long will it be before the next wave of protests? Before the other half of society has REALLY had enough, of yet another faulty and biased government?

    The Women's Movement should not be considered as just another lot of strikes. They are not trying to divide the country, they are trying to make it twice as strong by giving it twice as many voices, minds and ideas for the new constitution!

    Those who oppose this vital stage in the reforms should rejoin their hero, president Hosni Mubarak and form a new, wonderland of oppression somewhere far away from civilised society.

    Janine, Irish, living in Bahrain.

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