From the new September-October 2013 issue of News & Letters:
Woman as Reason
Fascisms test women
by Terry Moon
No one has better reason to despise the Muslim Brotherhood than the women in Egypt who put their lives on the line to throw out former President Mubarak and experienced the new human relations that reigned for 18 days in Tahrir Square. President Morsi’s constitution gutted women’s rights and put them under religious control. The Brotherhood blamed the life-threatening and orchestrated rapes in Tahrir Square on the victims, stating that women were “100%” responsible for them. It was clear from the beginning of his reign that the Brotherhood and Morsi were opposed to women’s freedom and self-development.
Clearly, it was not only feminists who wanted Morsi and the Brotherhood out of power, as massive demonstrations showed. The military knew they were making a popular move when they arrested Morsi and accomplished their coup. (See Editorial, page 1.)
But now, over 1,000 Brotherhood members and supporters are dead in the streets—and a good many of the dead are women. The army imposed a state of emergency; military-sanctioned thugs control the streets.
THE ARMY IS NOT OUR FRIEND
The hopeful and hopelessly naive expression that “The army and the people are one hand,” is fatally contradicted by what the army did to revolutionaries before Morsi took power: the brutal beating of the woman protester who became known as the woman in the blue bra; the painful and demeaning so-called “virginity tests” cruelly administered by the military to punish women protesters; and continuing gang rapes the Brotherhood blames on the raped women that often include cuttings and beatings. These well-planned and executed gang rapes could not continue were it not for implicit—if not explicit—approval of the military.
But even more, that naïve expression is contradicted by what the military is doing now. It is crucial that those who fought for revolution speak out against General Sisi and his army of thugs. One who is making herself heard is Egyptian feminist writer and activist Mona Eltahawy. This is what she said in part to Joy- Ann Reid on MSNBC on Aug. 18 speaking from Cairo:
WE PICK FREEDOM
For the past 60 years we’ve been forced to chose between these two binaries, neither of which are friends to freedom or the revolution. Again, I condemn all killing and the bloodletting must stop….We had to make this false choice last summer when the elections were the military junta guy and the Muslim Brotherhood guy, but now what we’re seeing, it’s playing out on our TV screens, it’s playing out on our streets, horrifically….
As a woman and as a feminist, I refuse this binary. Because you have to remember that General Sisi, he was in charge, he justified the so-called virginity tests when Egyptian female revolutionaries were sexually assaulted when Tahrir Square was cleared. And when Morsi was president, many of his supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood were completely silent and blamed women for sexual assaults. Neither of these sides are friends to women’s rights. They are authoritarian and they understand each other’s language, which is a language of fascism, fascists with god and fascists with guns, and they negotiate in blood….
Too many people are so willing to write us off. They don’t think we deserve freedom. We deserve to be free and Egyptians will be free. But we need to stumble and we need to learn and we need to push the fascists aside and say you will not derail our path to freedom. And you will not continue to define Egypt, because Egypt is all of us. Egypt is the military and the Muslim Brotherhood but we won’t allow their fascism and their negotiating in blood to derail our path to freedom.
My message to the U.S. administration is: Catch up with us because for too long you thought we were just plodding along loving this strong-fisted leader. My message to General Sisi is: We will not allow another Hosni Mubarak and we won’t allow a military junta to ruin our aspirations to become free. We deserve to be free.
REVOLUTION IN PERMANENCE
I think what will happen once people realize that we’re paying too high a price in blood is that we will remember what this revolution is about.…Now Egyptians from all levels and all backgrounds understand, have seen a revolution begin. It’s not finished, but they’ve seen it begin, and they understand that our world counts and has real world consequences.
For Egyptian women to experience freedom, the revolution has to continue, and for that to happen the revolutionaries have to oppose both Morsi and Sisi’s bloodthirsty military and fight for the vision of a new society that sustained them in Tahrir Square.