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May 29, 2005

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Nur al-Cubicle

OT: Golly, AA, look at this. First woman to run for election to office as a lawmaker (July 2007) is a Kuwaiti journalist, Aïsha al-Rashid. Bifecta! Not only that, she's runing in the heavily Islamist Kiefan district outside Kuwait City. 'Course her campaign promise is, well, check it out:

If I am elected, I will work to change the Kuwaiti personal status code so that it will be entirely based on Sharia law. I believe that Sharia fully provides for the social rights of women.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

She's organized her own campaign rally for Monday at her home with separate seating for men and women. The first ever by and for a woman.

After al-Rashid announced, four other Kuwaiti women announced their candidacies: a writer, two human right activists and an academic.

This is odd, though. "Election rallies are the only means for candidates to get out their message out to the voters; state control of radio and television prevents campaign adverstizing."

http://www.lorient-lejour.com.lb/aujourdhui/infos/infosujetw5.htm

Nur al-Cubicle

Another OT: Iraq Wears Black

http://tinyurl.com/7wbqc

Stacey

Sort of on topic: When the announcement of the assaults on the crowds came, you could see immediately that this would become a gendered (and no, I don't mean "gender") issue. The regime knew that they'd push a button with assaults on women, and they did it anyway. So we have to ask why.

By making this into a "women's issue," the women who were assaulted will quickly become the focus, and the underlying substance of the demands of those women AND men who were assaulted will pass silently away.

For me, making this about what "they" did to "the women" is a travesty. First of all, it undermines those women who protested as Egyptians, not as women, per se. Second, it marginalizes those men who stood alongside them, who were beaten and humiliated as well. Indeed, it naturalizes it.

So, as much as I admire the mobilization for Wednesday, I have an instinct to reject the segregation of the regime's crimes, since I think it will enable even more of them. So maybe the interior minister will resign. Aren't there a score of others waiting to take his place? They are using these women to make this issue a tangible one that they can "address", and to make the rest of it go away.

SP

Stacey - very good points. Let me offer some counter-arguments: focusing on attacks on women may actually help bring the repression home to people who are wary of protestors and Kefaya types (or MBs, or whichever radical forces they fear), by tapping outrage that most Egyptians would share on hearing of attacks on women. It is the very gratuitousness of the attacks on women that could serve to highlight the regime's moral bankruptcy. Turning a political issue into a gendered one is risky, as you note, but tying one's political demands to more universally accepted values can be very powerful.

Stacey

From a strategic point of view, I hope that it will work that way. But, of course, I'm still afraid of giving into a "universally accepted" argument that values the bodily sanctity of women over men, or - of course - vice versa.

But I can join you in hoping for the immediate good, even with a longer-term cost.

Nur al-Cubicle

It's not just ~any~ women. The thugs were beating up Egyptian elite. What kind of country "rolls" its young, responsible, university educated and cosmopolitain women? What kind of country tells is magistrates, also members of the elite, to butt out of its national legislative elections? Bush should tell Gamal that elections observers must be present or he won't recognize the new government. Instead, all we got was a feeble "that's not how democracy works."

Mona Eltahawy

Interesting AFP story about the wearing black campaign (I didn't realize it was Heba Rauf Ezzat who launched it) and the White Ribbon campaign:

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=15501

Nur al-Cubicle

Hey, there's a White Ribbon Campaign too!

Egyptian women have launched two initiatives, one calling on citizens to dress in black and the other to wear a white ribbon in protest of the beating of several women on May 25th by supporters of the regime.

Demonstrators protesting the referendum and several female journalists covering the event were sexually harassed. Several members of the opposition were beaten by security agents in plainclothes and supporters of the ruling National Democratic Party. Images of women dragged along by their hair, their clothing in shreds, and beaten by their aggressors have been pubished around the world resulting in an international outcry and raising doubts over the political reforms put forward by Hosni Moubarak. The Union of Egyptian Journalists has called for the resignation of the Interior Minister, Habib al-Adli.

A group of women with no political affiliation has launched The White Ribbon Campaign demanding an official apology. We will wear and distribute white ribbons to demand an apology from government officials, the leadership of the NDP and the Interior Ministry. The White Ribbon initiative was launched by Ghada Shahbender, an academic and member of Kefaya, together with two other women, a television presenter and a housewife. Since starting this campaign using email and text messaging, we have had enormous support. At first, it was a personal initiative but now we are putting together an organized program and are gathering momentum. 4,000 white ribbons have already been produced in preparation for a June 1 rally in front of the Union of Journalists in downtown Cairo, where the aggression took place last week.

A reknown feminist, Heba Raouf Ezzat, professor of Political Science at Cairo University urged Egyptians to dress in black on Tuesday as protest against police brutality and sexual harassment.

Meanwhile the Nasserist weekly, al-Arabi, demanded an apology by Mubarek to the Egyptian people. The government continues to minimize the incident, calling press reports "exaggerated" and the aggression "an emotional tiff" between between opponents and supporters of the regime.

SP

Stacey - I'm with you on the principle of it (as someone who hates the sort of news report that says "ten people died, including five women and children.")

On a more practical note - are we to wear all black, or just a black shirt, or what?

Mohamed

Stacey, I think what the regime did last Wednesday was utterly stupid. They were trying to scare those protestors off, and it is backfiring. No place for argument between emphasizing what's happening to women versus men here. But the fact is, it is a cultural differentiation/emphasis and we ought to capitalize on it. And that's exactly what's happenning. Beating men (and even sexually assaulting them in detention centers) is a totally different story than assaulting women in a culture like ours, and in public (and yes, and I hate to differentiate, but, elite women too).

If the Minister of Interior resigns, sure there are lots more waiting in line. But mind you, this would be a first for a public reaction to cause a high ranking government official to resign. I'd consider that a big blow to the regime. Hopefully the start of many to come.

Now, to be realistic, I'm not really sure how effective those campaigns will be, but its certainly worth the effort.

David W

where is the pressure on Laura Bush? It's mind-boggling to the extreme and perverse (alas, a common occurence these days), that she would have a visit and press conference praising Mubarak's wife as a paragon of her gender, while at the same time this is happening in the streets!

I'm glad to see the internal pressure, but I'd also like to see some international pressure applied to Ms. Bush, and her phony feminism.

-David

ps. i'm visiting in Beirut for a while--very interesting indeed, though I haven't seen much posted here of late to comment directly on--music videos are boring to me, whether they're Haifa or Britney;>

Leila

Where's the pressure on Laura Bush? Exposing her phony feminism?

The idea of Laura Bush as a feminist or a person with any clout or moral authority on the question of women is so laughable that of course there's no pressure on Laura Bush. The only surprising thing at all is that she is traveling to the MIddle East in the first place, that she's had one word to say about any of it.

Stacey

As a total aside, my Egyptian housekeeper last year told me of her view that an examination of first ladies would tell you a lot about the two parties in the US (which she, who can't read, could name, courtesy of al-Jazeera): Basically, Hillary Clinton came to the White House always having had a job and continued to work on the health care thing (no comment), whereas Laura Bush worked on a volunteer basis part-time, and has not "worked" since becoming first lady. According to Nadia, this was evidence of the parties' positions on women, generally, and indicative of the more progressive aspects of the democractic party.

There are HUGE holes in this, but I found it kind of an amazing perspective on the whole first-lady-as-feminist issue. You should have heard her thoughts on the Republican convention (which was broadcast on AJ, too)!

David W

Leila, what i'm saying is that somebody needs to put the lie to her phony words, and that the reality of what's going on in Egypt right now is 180º from what she mouthed to the mainstream media...

while you and I may find it laughable, to the 'Oprah watchers' of the world, Laura Bush is a 'feminist model of empowerment,' so it's very important to at least have some oppositional facts on record somewhere.

SP

Wow, Stacey, your housekeeper seems to have a feel for the pulse of American politics! I'd love to know what she thought of the Republican convention :)

I wore black today and passed by the protest in front of the Niqabat al Sahafeyeen, where there were about 150-200 people with banners and chanting slogans (and of course full riot police and barriers treatment - but no counter-demonstrating thugs). I was disappointed to see that not that many people were wearing black - maybe just 30-40.

SP

BBC covered the protests today: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4600133.stm

I do feel a bit uneasy about the emphasis on the gender component, though...

The Sandmonkey

Ok, concerning the laura Bush thing.

She was their guest, she got put on the spot, she was being polite.

Laura never was a policymaker or held any kind of influence over Bush when it came to foreign policy. It's not her job. It could be her personal opinion, but that doesn't make it the opinion of W. or the american adminstration, which as reported afterwards was not. So enough with the laura attacks already.

SP

Of course Laura is not a policymaker and was put on the spot about elections. But she should have known that her remarks would be broadcast widely and be interpreted by regimes and publics as US support for Mubarak. She made the trip in her official capacity as First Lady, and so she probably had US diplomats and spin doctors to guide her.

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