While Egyptians have been defying their government by taking to the streets for over a week now, a demonstrators gathering in solidarity held in Toronto, Canada has shown their commitment to progress by reportedly kicking out a woman raising awareness of women’s issues in Egypt.
Reddit user eatenplacenta posted the following,
I made a sign about female genital mutilation and violence against women and people started getting in my face and yelling at me about how my message had no connection to the protest (although it was a protest about oppression in Egypt and the need for better human rights) and that FGM doesn’t exist anymore in Egypt. Men and women were trying to push me away and someone broke my sign. Then someone else complained about me to the director of the protest and he told me that if I didn’t take down my sign, he would kick me out of the protest and I asked him why and his response was “today isn’t about women.” There was an area for the fucking Iraqi Communist Party but to bring up a women’s rights issue was bad enough to piss off a lot of people and get kicked out. Women have been completely marginalized in this revolution. It was disheartening and only proved that the fact that I needed to be there because it was so controversial.
This was the sign.
The Egyptian uprising, by most accounts I’ve read at least, has united people from all corners of Egypt to stand opposed to Mubarak and the thugs which have spent the last few nights attacking pro-democracy supporters.
Gatherings of people within Tahrir Square have enabled people to interact who would never have had the opportunity to do so only months before while allowing political messages to be discussed.
A woman calling who called into the @Jan25 Voices twitter feed described the protests in Tahrir square as classless and genderless.
Before this, a video began circulating on the internet of a young woman leading protesters in a chant against security forces as they stood only a metre away behind a fence.
A feature by Al Jazeera tells details of a night spent skirmishing with pro-government supporters in and around Tahrir square.
The closer I got, the more frenetic the activity among the anti-government protesters.
Men and women hustled up huge bags of rocks. Another group dragged a metal barricade into a new backup position.
The source of the cacophony that had been echoing off Cairo’s streets and through our window was revealed: protesters behind the lines were rhythmically banging on the metal pavement fences in a primal drumbeat to keep the crowd’s spirits up.
All accounts point to women being involved on the front lines in the uprising.
Not being Egyptian and not being in Egypt, I cannot give any detailed description about what is being discussed by protesters on the street, or whether they will be discussed over the next weeks.
However, from the reports coming out of Egypt out over the last few days, protesters have clearly been dealing with the very immediate threats posed by the Egyptian police, and that posed by violent thugs supporting the regime.
Given the circumstances, it is unlikely that those on the streets have given much thought to anything other the immediate future, food, sleep and how to respond to the antagonists of the regime.
The men and women of Egypt have shown exceptional courage in standing up to Egyptian authority’s and their supporters, after all, there is a lot at stake.
If Mubarak wins, and some are suggesting that he already has, there will be a crack down. Not only will the people in the street face repression, but, no doubt, their family’s will suffer a similar fate.
That fate will not be pleasant as the Egyptian police and prosecutors are known to torture those they have arrested.
Already organisers of the protests have been arrested as well as a notable Egyptian blogger who reportedly has managed to escape custody to go “on the run”.
It may be possible that those in Toronto misinterpreted eatenplacenta’s motives for appearing at the demonstration with the sign, given the propensity for those inciting Islamophobia to cite Female Genital Mutilation as a key reason why “all Arabs are evil”.
But ignorance is no defence.
Ejecting eatenplacenta for attempting to highlight a serious issue relating to women in Egypt betrays the spirit of the uprising itself given the role women have played so far and the relatively egalitarian environment it has created.
Repeatedly, protesters have stated that they are fighting to create the potential for dialogue to take place without fear of reprisals.
Given that the people of liberal Toronto, Canada are not facing an immediate, day-to-day threat to their safety either from the regime or the regime’s supporters for speaking out, it is a place where discussion of issues such as Female Genital Mutilation can, should and must take place.
So long as one girl suffers, the discussion and action on the issue must take place and raising these issues, where ever possible is necessary to ensure the discussion continues.
Any act which silences that discussion runs contrary to the stated goals and aspirations which the Egyptian people are fighting and dying for.
To what extent the Egyptians engage with these issues when they are not fighting for their lives will define what is currently taking place within Egypt.
Perhaps it will be a distinguishing feature between a mere uprising and the beginnings of a real revolution.