International Women's Day in Cairo

I have an account of what happened with the women's protest in Tahrir today up at The Daily Beast.

Protesters were attacked and driven out of the square, accused of being “foreigners” (quite a few foreign women and journalists were present), and had their flyers and posters torn up.

There was tension from the beginning, with throngs of male hecklers outnumbering the hundreds of female protesters.

“A man tried to rule us and failed—will we let a woman?” an middle-aged man yelled at the crowd of Egyptian women holding banners in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The men around him burst out laughing.

Egyptian women had called for a demonstration demanding that their demands and rights be taken into greater consideration by the military currently running the country.

People's impressions of the protest varied a lot, in terms of atmosphere. I left right before things turned ugly, and didn't sense they would. There were lots of obnoxious hecklers, but I actually witnessed quite a few substantive and civil arguments (no one was aggressive to me). I actually thought that depressing as many of the men's point of view was, it was at least a good thing that people were arguing these issues openly. I was very troubled to hear about the violence. I would say -- and this is purely a strategic observation, not meant in any way to blame -- that the organizers might have been better served by biding their time and getting a much larger coalition of supporters involved (where were the opposition parties? why wasn't this publicized by the Kullena Khaled Said group?) so that the protest might have been larger and not mainly made up of women's rights activists. I hope this doesn't discourage them from organizing something else in the future. 

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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.