A while back I went into the Diwan bookstore in Zamalek only to find out that a book that I had spent around two weeks proof reading for publication is finally out (though as expected my name is not mentioned in it). This book is a compilation of all the issues of Al Fataah (The Young Woman), the first ever Women’s magazine in Egypt (and most probably in the Arab world) which was published from November 1892 till March 1894 by Hind Nofel.
What is impressive about this magazine is not just that it provides insight into the birth and development of women’s rights movement in the country but it also provides insight into the birth and development of journalism. Also, the hundreds of articles it contains are very representative of the age from the too ornate and flowery language that uses too many synonyms and images to the strong class consciousness that lurks behind many of the op-eds.
The magazine contains everything that is thought to be of benefit to the making of an upright and enlightened new woman. There are autobiographies of important and influential women (most of whom are European royalty or intellectuals and interestingly the very first woman portrayed in the very first issue of the magazine is Queen Victoria!). Many articles are dedicated to the art of home making, etiquette and health and every once in a while you find glossy magazine prototype articles describing the weddings of daughters of Egyptian nobility and the contents of their new houses. There are even articles summarizing some of the wacko 19th century scientific theories on race.
My favorite articles are the op-eds in every issue, reading them you learn a lot about the contradictory conservative and liberal aspects that struggled for control within the minds of these early feminists. Thus, while for instance they strongly defended their belief that gender roles in society are manmade and not natural, you find them criticizing European and American suffragettes for wanting to trespass into the world of politics which is described as solely for men!
The women writing in the magazine show strong awareness of and ties with other contemporary women’s movements not only in Europe as expected but also in the USA. In fact, one of the magazine’s contributors, Estir Azhari, was invited and went to the 1893 Congress of Women that was held during the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
You can find the book, which was compiled and reprinted by the Women and Memory Forum as part of their goal to bring to light the underestimated size of women’s contributions to the Arab social and cultural history, at Diwan Bookstores in Zamalek and Heliopolis or at the headquarters of the WMF itself (83 Shehab St. Mohandesin, third floor). This compiled book also contains an interesting introduction by Professor Hoda Elsadda. However, in it the WMF made a few alterations to how some words are spelt to make them follow today’s modern standardized spelling (eg. In the 19th century many Arabs tended to spell anything with a hamza with a ya’).
If you are in the USA, you can find the original copies of the magazine at the Yale University Library.
By Maura J. Casey WeNews commentator Iran has just closed Zanan, an influential women's magazine that covered international politics, prisons, Islamic law; never chocolate cake. Maura Casey says the closure could be temporary; if not, it's a terrible loss. Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews. (WOMENSENEWS)--Iran's most influential women's magazine, Zanan, has become the latest victim of a government intent on censoring, harassing and imprisoning opponents, journalists in particular. Officials accused the monthly journal of damaging society by being too negative toward Iran and closed the publication Jan. 28. Zanan is hardly alone, of course. Iranian courts have used similar rationale to close many scores of newspapers and magazines in the last 10 years, particularly those that called for free speech and greater civil liberties. But Zanan, which means "women" in Farsi, was one of a kind; it was the only serious women's magazine in Iran and had a wide following, both in Iran and around the world. Zanan's crusading editor, Shahla Sherkat, who lives in Tehran, founded the magazine 16 years ago to explore serious topics that affect women in the Islamic Republic: politics, women in prison, international issues affecting women and the impact Islamic law has on women's lives. Sherkat also ran book reviews, stories about women in sports and health issues, among other topics.
'Dunia': Visually striking, politically daring > Jocelyne Saab on the ups and downs of her first Egyptian feature > > By Jim Quilty > Daily Star staff > Thursday, December 29, 2005 > DUBAI: "Dunia" ("Kiss me not on the Eyes"), Leb-anese writer- > director JocelyneSaab's first Egyptian feature, caused a minor > scandal after its Middle East premier at the Cairo Film Festival > earlier this month. A week later, this sensuous, loose-limbed film > closed its 2005 tour at the Dubai International Film Festival. The > surroundings were more amicable but the criticisms remained. > > Seen outside the confines of Egypt, "Dunia" lingers in the memory > as a visually striking, politically daring film and a monument to > Saab's determination and ingenuity. That doesn't mean it will > appeal to all tastes, of course. > > At the center of the plot is Dunia herself (Hanan Turk), a > twentysomethingwoman whose inquisitive, strong-willed, conflicted > character has been nurtured in a significantly man-less nuclear > family. > > First among these strong women is Dunia's aunt (Aida Riad), who > drives a taxi and lives in splendid sensuality with her husband. > Complementing this earthiness is the intellectual role model of > Dunia's former literature professor (Sawsan Badr). > > On the margins of the plot - and the center of the film's > controversy - areDunia's niece and her grandmother. The most > distasteful character in the film, the grandmother is the enemy of > all things sensual and schemes to have the little girl castrated to > nip her nascent sexuality in the bud. > > Dunia embodies aspects of all these influences and the film has her > navigate through several inchoate desires - intellectual, > spiritual, political, social, sexual. The plot diffuses to follow > developments in these different facets of her life. > > Passionately interested in Sufi poetry, Dunia approaches the > charismatic professor Beshir (pop star Mohamed Mounir) to advise > her on her final paper at university. He takes her on, and the two > commence a high-minded flirtation, spending long hours discussing > variations on a theme of physical and spiritual love and union. > > Adding to Beshir's stature is his vocal defense of free speech. > After several brave condemnations of those who would presume to > repress Egyptian intellectual and artistic liberty, he is one night > assaulted by thugs. The attack robs him of his vision, > significantly enough, and from this point forward he seldom leaves > his rooms. Never fully dressed, his physical needs seen to by a > female assistant, Beshir is reduced to a shadow, as it were, of his > former self. > > Dunia's mother was a renowned belly dancer, and the daughter shares > a passion for dance. At about the same time that she approaches > Beshir, Duniaenters a prestigious dance competition - rather > unconventionally since she refuses to actually dance during the try- > out, which should send up flares to the audience that the script is > not-altogether realistic. > > The jury accepts her submission and, perhaps aware that not-dancing > won't actually win the competition, Dunia begins to train with her > mother's former dance instructor (film choreographer Walid Aouni). > > The third man in Dunia's life is her boyfriend Mamdouh (Fathy Abdel- > Wahab), a fellow university student and, as we eventually discover, > a burgeoning architect. Sweet-natured, if unable to commit to a > serious relationship, he's as horny as a dog but keeps their > relations chaste - though the thuggish shabaab in Dunia'sbuilding > imagine otherwise. > > Dunia eventually decides to marry Mamdouh. She wears a paper > wedding gown and later - when he overbearingly demands that she > withdraw from the dance competition because he doesn't want all the > men in the world to have their eyes on her body - its fabric > provides the medium for her declaration of independence from him. > > Dunia has mounting difficulty reconciling the triptych of stories > arising from her overlapping passions. Her marriage is never > consummated, but she loathes the abnegation of sensuality > represented by her cousin's cliterodectomy. > > Ultimately Dunia is only able to consummate her disparate passions > by integrating them - presaging the return of Beshir's vision, > significantly enough. Much of this business is expressed in > metaphorical terms. We never witnessDunia's competition, for > instance, but the film closes with an extended shot of the actress > dancing, barefoot and outdoors, in public but with no public > audience in evidence. > > > It's an appropriate way to close the film since it captures Saab's > major accomplishment - shared with her director of photography > Jacques Bouquin and editor Claude Reznik - making a film shot in > digital video look as if it were shot in 35mm film. > > "It was impossible to shoot in 35mm," said Saab after the Dubai > screening, "so we used the DV as if it were a 35mm camera - the > same composition, the same trailing shots and so on. They thought I > was mad, and the actors were often very uncomfortable with it at > first." > > When she arrived in Dubai, Saab was still reeling from Cairo, where > the post-screening news conference was reduced to a screaming match > between her andKhaireya al-Beshlawy, her unusually critical moderator. > > Quite apart from her struggles with the Egyptian censors, she said, > and an uncooperative press and industry, Saab faced several > artistic challenges in making "Dunia." > > The first was the script itself, which took five years to research > and write. Though the story is completely her own, Saab says she > had several Egyptian collaborators. > > "I'm very precise in my work," she said, "and I wanted to be > authentic in portraying Cairenes' day-to-day lives. Their way of > living, their dialect is quite different from Lebanese. I also > needed to research Sufi poetry. > > "Albert Faraj helped me a lot with the male characters. The film > isn't about these women finding that the men in their lives are > bastards. These men are all experiencing crises, struggling against > convention. Neither the dance instructor nor the poetry professor > is a typical male character." > > Mainstream critics dislike "Dunia" because it doesn't have a > tightly-integrated, linear plot. Rather, it has a cast of > characters and a central situation from which spin several sub-plots. > > Saab's screenplay is more concerned with showing than telling, a > storytelling approach usually preferred to more didactic ones. > Saab's cinematic language is often more allusive than direct, > though, and this, combined with the loose plotting, will test the > patience of some audiences. > > "The structure of the story is based on 'A Thousand and One > Nights,'" said Saab. "'Dunia' isn't the sort of film to watch with > your head. You follow your feelings. > > "It's a great challenge not being able to be direct. It's hell to > film a love scene when the actors are forbidden to touch, when they > can't kiss." > > As Saab is a Lebanese filmmaker, "Dunia" may seem evidence of a > recent opening-up of the Egyptian film industry. This was best > exemplified by last year's bouquet of first-time features - such as > Hala Khalil's "Best Times" andOussama Fawzi's "I Love Cinema." > > Saab doesn't see any evidence of Egyptian cinema opening. "I have > one country," she said, "my imagination ... but I fought my way > into Egypt. The door wasn't opened for me. > > "It's not changing because the producers and distributors don't > want any change. It comes down to money. They want to invest at the > beginning of the year and have it come back by the end. It does, > thanks to the Egyptian poor, people who can afford to pay for the > cinema three or four times a year. > > "Anyway Lebanese are no strangers to Egyptian cinema. If you back > to the 1940s, the Lebanese were among the pioneers of Egyptian film > - YoussefChahine, for instance." > > Saab pauses when asked if her being Lebanese had anything to do > with the difficulties she faced in Egypt. > > "I think 65 percent of the reason we had this trouble comes from > the content - the female castration, the lovemaking." She paused > again. "About 35 percent was because I'm Lebanese. Part of this is > the fact that I'm a woman." > > The general release of Jocelyne Saab's "Dunia" is expected in early > 2006.
Another chief goes down in less than two weeks Journalism became a hazardous profession in Egypt. Cairo, 25 September, 2007 A lawsuit filed by a number of lawyers belonging to the ruling party has sent another editor in chief to jail, making them five so far. Anawar El-Hawary, the opposing Wafd's boss along with his deputy chief Mahmoud Ghalab and Ameer Salim the politics' editor were all sentenced to two years in prison, 200 L.E fine and 2001 L.E as temporary compensation. The bail is set on 5000 L.E. This is the most recent and" expected" verdict among a series of verdicts issued against marked outspoken journalists who merely use their newspapers- either independent or belonging to opposition parties-as a platform to voice their opposition against the government. The case that took place before the Warrak criminal court bears nothing unfamiliar except for the number of lawyers who filed the lawsuit, 11 lawyers from the ruling party which is dominating the political scene since the mid seventies. This case raises questions about the possibility that the ruling party may have a special body growling to go after independent and opposition journalists? Judges who issued these verdicts against journalists went as far as delivering a tribute to this regime and applauding its dedication to press freedoms to the point that made this term bear double standards as pro- government judges and journalists interpret it to call for throwing "outspoken" journalists in jail, an interpretation which makes journalism a hazardous profession in Egypt for those who don't belong to either pro-government newspapers or the Democratic Party. The lawyers who filed the lawsuit based it on article 102 of the criminal law alleging that El-Wafd publicized false news last January damaging the reputation of the judiciary, referring to a news-story about a meeting between the minister of justice and the legislative committee in the people's assembly as the minister expressed his indignation about a number of judges; Although the story was covered by many newspapers yet it was apparently El-Wafd's time to make it to the stake. "Article no 102 of the criminal law which bears pervasive interpretations became a dagger in the heart of press freedoms, the Egyptian government insists to keep it that way, in order to use it against outspoken journalists. El-Wafd's story was true; the minister of justice has issues with the independence of the judiciary system. He might be good for something but not for serving justice" said Gamal Eid , HRInfo executive director. http://www.hrinfo.net/en
Arab Female Journalists Stand Up for Press Freedom By Rita Henley Jensen - Editor in Chief View larger slideshow - AMMAN, Jordan (WOMENSENEWS)--Freedom of the press and women's equality can be characterized as culturally invasive concepts in much of the Arab world. The region is dominated by nations that are still ruled by kings and queens and governed by religious leaders who advocate enforcement of gender-specific roles and clothing. Moreover, the region's violent conflicts have taken the lives of 19 journalists and three news media workers so far in 2007, according to reports by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. As the sole media representative from a Western nation attending the sixth annual conference of the Arab Women Media Center for 60 female Arab journalists on press freedom and gender equity within the media, I assumed I should behave with circumspection so as not to offend. I also expected the other attendees to do likewise. That misapprehension was quickly put to rest by the laughter and voices raised in song that filled the bus one night as it left the conference center, taking us all to dinner at an authentic Jordan open-air restaurant. A radio journalist from Palestine knew the words of traditional songs and she led the other 20 or so in the back of the bus in one song after another, each one a little bit louder and each one causing a little more laughter. She then began clapping and the others began clapping too, with the sheer joy of being together. Then high-pitched ululating started and all clapped, ululated, laughed and sang for the 30-minute ride to the restaurant. Nothing was muffled or subdued about this group, chosen from among 450 print reporters, broadcast news producers and on-air talent, and Internet journalists from the 22 Arab-speaking nations. The attendees, mostly between ages 25 to 35, spent three days in late June in Jordan to consider issues rich in complexity for their profession, their nations, their religion and their gender.To read the whole article click here.
Will add my comments on the issue in a couple of days (when I get done with two scary exams I have to take).
A Present to Journalists in the Press Freedom World Day Verdict of Imprisonment and a Fine against Howaida Taha Cairo, 2 May 2007 Human Rights Organizations refused the verdict issued by Al-Nozha Misdemeanor Court against Howaida Taha Program Editor in Al-Jazeera Channel of six months imprisonment, a bail of 10 thousands and a forfeiture of 20 thousands. Moreover, they confiscated the records and a laptop. The verdict is the government's present to the journalists in the press freedom world day. The prosecution took duration of three months suspecting Howaida Taha editor of a documentary film on torture in Egypt presenting the different visions about torture crimes including the testimonials of victims, human rights organizations' representatives, police officers and physicians. In addition, the film represents some acting scenes related to victims' testimonials. The film screened in Al-Jazeera Channel on two parts in the last two weeks and became a documentary testimonial for the security apparatus violations against citizens. In a declaration by Gamal Eid Executive Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information "We are not surprised of issuing the verdict against Howaida Taha however we expected it, but we are angry because it confirms the government's insist on hostility with freedom of the press and media in Egypt". The sentence issued was according to Article 80, Clause 1 and Article 178 repeated, Clause 1 of Penal Code, which they belong to broadcasting false news defaming the country's reputation. However, it does not related by any means to Howaida Taha's case. The film screened true torture cases tried before courts, which means the documentaries are true. On the other hand, the country's defamation comes with practicing torture crimes not introducing them, which denies the second crime. In a declaration by Ahmed Seif El Islam Executive Director of Hisham Mubarak Law Center, "From the beginning of the case we faced abusive acts by the prosecution and the court. All our defense files refused and the contradictory testimonial presented by state security officers to the prosecution was enough to innocent the editor Taha. However, it is enough to know that freedom of expression is not welcomed in Egypt although we will proceed in defending it". Moreover, the records of the film confiscated by the police in Cairo Airport infiltrated to an Egyptian TV program and presented badly degrading work values to defame the reputation of Howaida Taha. On the other hand, Ahmed Helmy lawyer and Head of Horriya Center for Political Rights and Reinforcing Democracy presented an appeal to the prosecution asking about the infiltration of the film records, broadcasted in a TV program and violating Al-Jazeera Channel's intellectual property. On the other hand, the reporter of the TV program declared that he received the records from an anonymous source and broadcasted it. The signatories on this statement state that their mission of supporting the journalists and press will continue in an attempt to establish a free and fair press reinforcing the absent democratic climate situated in Egypt. Signatories
- The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
- Hisham Mubarak Law Center
- Horriya Center for Political Rights and Reinforcing Democracy