The revolution changed the system – but not the way people think
Therevolution radically changed life over night in Egypt – but not everythingchanged for the better. Egyptian Human rights activist Doaa Ali Kassem givesher view on the current development where women’s position is radicallyweakened, the poorly organized opposition and the military postponing upcoming parliamentaryelections to be held on November instead of September.
|Facts about Doaa of Egypt:|
- In 2009, roughly 9,300 incidents of arranged marriages with under aged brides were recorded in Egypt.
- The “husband” gets sex, the family gets money and social status from having a married daughter.
- The Swedish-Egyptian anti-trafficking initiative Doaa of Egypt fights trafficking together with the women and their families through mentoring, empowerment and providing women in danger of trafficking with safe jobs.
- Doaa of Egypt: Initiated through the She Entrepreneurs mentor programme of the Swedish Institute by Gayathri Rathiavelu of The Good Tribe, Eva Maria “Evis” Sköld of Evis Social Entreprenerus and Doaa Ali Kassem.
What is the biggest challenge according toyou?
The regime is gone but the mentalityremains. Mubarak governed Egypt with an iron fist during three decades and thementality of corruption and fear remains strong. This has lead to a number ofproblems: political, religious and ethnic. The problems of trafficking remainsof that as well: poor families selling e.g. trafficking their daughters to getmoney. Educational institutions are struggling with the lack of resources andmany young people drop out of school; many people also ignore laws andregulations.
These attitudes have been fostered during along period, and despite the revolution this will not change over night. Wewill need a lot of time to change this culture. It is extremely important forEgyptian society that government representatives and political parties leavetheir offices to talk and listen to people's needs.
Describe the current situation for women inEgypt?
People are still happy that Mubarak steppeddown – this was an immense victory for the Egyptian people. But the backside ofthe revolution is now that the situation for women is actually worsening. Wechanged the system – but we did not change the way people think.
What did women’s situation look like duringthe revolution?
During the revolution women tasted truefreedom. No one had ever before experienced, or even anticipated the situation,which unraveled during the revolution. Women left their houses to participatein political activities. They spent entire nights outside on the streets fightingthe regime and protecting themselves and the Tahrir square as equal citizens –side by side with the Egyptian men. The sweet sensation of victory did, howevernot stay long –women’s and human rights activists are now facing new gravechallenges.
Doaa Ali Kassem sees four main challengesfor the Egyptian society:
1) We changed the system but not the mind
The corrupt mentality is a huge threat todemocratic development. There are laws and regulations, but people ignore them.For example it’s forbidden with underage marriages but its still happening, andthere are agencies doing money on arranging connections between the “husband”,family and daughter.
2) The military regime postponed the comingelections
The High Armed Forces Council, who governsEgypt after the revolution, stated that they will pass on their mandate togovern Egypt to civilians but this has not happened. The military postponed theupcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Another severe problem isthat the military regime only sees women as wives or sisters – not as citizenswith equal rights. As an example of this the military’s “Virginity tests” couldbe mentioned. During the revolution many women were against their will examinedby doctors who investigated whether they were virgins or not. Women who werenot married and suspected of not being virgins were punished with lawsuits andare now facing trials in military courts where they can be sentenced to jail.
3) Islamistic and conservative movementsthreaten women’s freedom
The Salafis and the Muslim brotherhood areworking hard to make Egypt an Islamic nation, where the Islamic Sharia lawwould be the basis of the legal system. The majority of the Egyptians areMuslims and recognize the importance of a civil state and human rights. MostEgyptians are neither Salafists nor related to the Muslim brotherhood. They arenormal people that seek a better life for their kids and for themselves.
It would be a threat to all women of Egypt– Muslim, Christian and of other religions if these two groups would govern thecountry. We fear that they would ban women from working and participating inpolitical activities. Them ruling the country could be the end of democracy inEgypt. They would not allow opposition, especially not coming from secular orliberal groups which potentially could face violent actions to scare offindividuals supporting their believes.
4) The liberal movement is poorly organized
The liberal movement is limited to Cairoand its representatives are busy with internal matters when they should mobilizepeople on the streets. The liberal parties e.g. the opposition under Mubarak’sregime lack democratic structures, suffer from corruption and power hungryleaders. The liberal and democratic parties have nice offices and TV shows –but that is about it. They criticize the Sulfists and the Muslim brotherhoodbut fail to really reach out to people, something the Islamic groups are verygood at doing. They also seem to lack key skills and strategies for the future.If the liberal parties want to play an active role in governing Egypt they haveto work hard to engage people to work with them for better lives of all Egyptians.
The interview was conducted by Eva Maria "Evis" Sköld and co-written with Evelina Lundqvist.