Let's hope that this can lead to positive change for at least some poor women trapped behind the iron veil of middle east mysoginy:
Assault blog allows Egypt's feminists to let rip
CAIRO -- Three months ago, when the holiday of Eid Al Fitr - the festival marking the end of Islam's holy month of Ramadan - turned into a crazed riot with young men sexually assaulting female bystanders in plain sight, it appeared Egypt had regressed to some far more lawless chapter of its history.
But it now appears those shocking events have galvanized ordinary people to take matters into their own hands. The outrage felt by Egyptian women at the attacks that took place in downtown Cairo last October, as well as at the indifference of authorities in the events' aftermath, has reverberated through the streets - and carried on cyber-waves - sparking a new, uncharted feminist movement in Egypt.
Leading the charge is a young Egyptian female - preferring to remain anonymous due to the nature of the campaign - who has started an Arab-language feminist blog called Atralnada (morning dew). In a country where Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise, and the status of women a subject of much debate, this young activist has made her struggle public, and her blog is empowering Egyptian women to speak out in turn.
"I wanted to post about my personal experiences of being harassed," she says simply, adding that the events of the last Eid celebration had sparked something inside her, compelling her to begin expressing herself in such a fashion.
Particularly galling to her has been the apparent callousness by Egyptian men regarding the assaults. "I am asking women to speak up and tell their stories since most of the men have denied anything [of this nature ever] happens in this country," she points out.
"[Males] write disgusting comments on blogs telling us that we are using the forum to become famous - even though [posters have to be] anonymous - and ... to attract men," she says incredulously.
Atralnada's popularity also points to the technological revolution slowly taking over the country. No longer do ordinary Egyptians need to rely on the more traditional media for their information. Events such as what occurred at the end of Ramadan last year are now reported on similar online forums and over the Internet in general. Blogging in particular is creating citizen-journalists in Egypt who are now able to compete with print newspapers and television for a viable information niche.
Most importantly perhaps, Faisal argues that blogs such as the newly-created Atralnada can help to shape cultural trends and allow more freedom of expression. "If bloggers are to make a real impact, it is by creating an awareness of [their] community ... and [urging ordinary] people and their governments to stop supporting a regime that inhibits freedom of speech," he stresses.
This is exactly what Atralnada tries to accomplish. With scores of women writing their stories online for others to read, the blog creates a bond within women's circles that makes it acceptable to talk about taboo issues such as sexual harassment.
The online posting site is thus helping to meet a need in Egyptian society, which has, at least from the point-of-view of Atralnada's founder, been too long ignored. "I hope people will no longer be afraid to say what has happened to them and that we, as women, can help stop sexual harassment before it boils over like it did during the Eid holiday," she offers.
"No longer do ordinary Egyptians need to rely on the more traditional media for their information. "
This is something that Canadians have in common with Egyptians, and let's hope that this year more of our fellow citizens come to realize that.