This year let’s celebrate … the women of Egypt’s revolution | Ahdaf Soueif

International Women’s Day: Women are standing up against bullying and sexual abuse by the military and won’t be silenced

On 16 February 2011, 10 of the most active feminist NGOs in Egypt issued a statement with a broad agenda. It ended:

“As women, we have been active participants in the Egyptian popular revolution and will continue this role, insisting on the full participation of women in the political and decision-making processes in the coming period. We believe that the elimination of all forms of discrimination – not only those based on gender, but also on class, race, belief or ideological affiliation – is the way to achieve citizenship for all.”

On 9 March, however, the military discriminated: having detained scores of young activists from downtown Cairo and taken them off to military jails, they asked the women if they were “girls” or “women”; the “girls” were then subjected to a virginity test. When they were released, one of them, Samira Ibrahim, took the military to court and is fighting her case now. When she spoke at Banha University recently, she was hailed as a heroine.

On 17 December, during a vicious attack on protesters outside the cabinet office, the military generated the “blue bra” image that flashed across the world. The incident also brought out a 3,000-woman march chanting: “Our revolution, the military stole it, the women of Egypt will restore it.” One young woman, who had to have 25 stitches to her head and many more to her legs after soldiers beat her, rose to fame for throwing Field Marshal Tantawi (the chief of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) out of her hospital ward when he had the gall to come to visit.

Women here have come forward as a solid force, an integral part of a national movement bent on change, participation, social justice and freedom. And they’re taking steps to ensure that the old tactics of bullying and sexual abuse cannot be used to intimidate them.

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