Egyptian women fear that the revolution would be aborted before achieving its three main principles: bread, freedom and social justice.
They are consumed with fears after they found out that Egypt’s newly drafted constitution, which was the outcome of the country’s uprising against oppression, marginalized them intentionally.
Today, fear almost ravages these women, who look twice in the mirror before heading to work for fear of being harshly criticized by an extremist or a woman wearing a hijab, since the new Egypt has become far more conservative and strict.
As soon as it was officially announced that Mohamed Morsi, the candidate from the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, won the presidential election, several women reported that they were harassed by bearded men and veiled women calling on them to wear the hijab.
Although there is no evidence to corroborate such claims, Morsi's supporters, who generally belong to Islamist movements, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, have undoubtedly gained more confidence and power after their number increased. Since women often choose to be the “weakest link,” it is normal to see them easily fall prey to the conflicts between Islamist movements and liberal parties. Egyptian women can be effortlessly subjected to the authority of those who can impose their control over them and they are also the easiest means to spread terror, fear and, of course, to convey the message. In other terms, if a woman is attacked or threatened, she will certainly report the incident to her friends and family, including mothers, female cousins and neighbors, so that they take the necessary precautions.
Although the supporters of Islamist movements deny such false accusations that aim — according to them — to cause divisions among Egyptians and level accusations at the security forces, the general feeling overwhelming most women in Egypt, mainly liberal women, whether they wear the hijab or not, is one of anxiety about the future. Apart from direct critics targeting them while on the streets, Egyptian women are concerned that they will be deprived of their rights to participate in parliament or run for president. In fact, Morsi pledged, on several occasions, to maintain Egyptian women’s rights, mainly by appointing a female MP, not forcing women to wear the veil, and most importantly to protect all women’s rights. However, it appears that such pledges are not a sufficient guarantee but rather a source of worries.
While some officials acquit Islamist movements and their supporters of such outright human right violations, there appear other comments on the Internet claiming that it is not wrong to criticize women not wearing the veil but it is shameful to breach God’s laws. According to such comments, “it is about time that Muslim Brotherhood takes reins over the country and implements the Shariah in a way or another.” There have been other comments that reflect the undeniable pulse of the nation.
It is really worrying to see political liberal movements seemingly oblivious to the retrogressive situation of Egyptian women. For instance, several talks are held about the “damages” resulting from the international conventions that Egypt signed concerning women’s rights, mainly CEDAW [Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women] . The Head of the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child, Camellia Helmy wrote on the official English website of the Muslim Brotherhood condemning CEDAW’s articles. She also called upon officials to “approve explicit articles in the new constitution that provide protection to the Egyptian family according to the Islamic Shariah and consolidate the Egyptian woman’s role within her household in a way that protects her and preserve her rights.”
Another shout was heard at the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (which is part of the civil society) to warn Egyptian women not to make their country follow Algeria’s example in the 1990s, where women used to live in ignorance and poverty and always played the religious card.
While Egyptian women are holding their breath waiting for the outcome of the few next days, there have been several calls to organize protests in support of women’s rights, which are now on a knife-edge.
In view of Egyptian women’s reaction to the expected attack of Islamist movements on women’s rights, many observers are struck with horror because of the present situation of Egyptian women, who were, in the near past, protesting and calling for the appointment of women as judges under a corrupt political regime that faltered following an uprising that such women had ignited. However, these same women are today reduced to silence as they wait for the unknown.