[Originally published here as part of WITNESS's collaboration with Global Voices Online]
In the run-up to the annual global campaign for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Egypt’s First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, addressing a meeting of the Arab Women’s Organisation, issued a heartfelt plea:
What shall we do to face challenges of discrimination, extremism and religious fanaticism?
It’s a vexing question – and one to which women back home in Egypt would have a very specific answer: stop ignoring violence against women even when it’s become an international scandal thanks to citizen video and the internet.
In her speech, Mrs Mubarak failed to make even a passing reference to what had happened to tens of women in her home city of Cairo just a couple of weeks before. A wave of attacks on women in downtown Cairo erupted on the Muslim feast day of Eid Al Fitr, October 24th 2006, when large groups of men attacked several women in the street, as Manal and Alaa’s bit bucket relates. But this wasn’t a one-off – in January 2006, on Eid al Adha, film-maker Sherif Sadek was back in Cairo, when he heard a commotion on the street outside his downtown apartment. Sherif grabbed his camera and leaned out the window to film the video presented below.
Initially it’s a little difficult to tell what is going on in the video – there are crowds in the middle of the street, which looks unusual – but after about 25 seconds, you will see two or three men leading four or five girls down the street past the building from which Sherif is filming. The crowd behind them is extremely large, a couple of hundred strong, and soon surrounds the girls (around 1’20). They then pass down a side-street, partially out of view, which gives Sherif time to spot a man in uniform – a police officer? – looking down the street at the commotion, who then gets back in his vehicle (1’50). Sections of the crowd then come running back round the corner, although it’s not clear whether they have the girls with them or not.
The October attacks took a similar form. GV’s Amira al Hussaini rounds up the best blog coverage of the October attacks, including Forsoothsayer’s translation of blogger Wael Abbas‘s eye-witness account, and Mechanical Crowds’ attempt to pull together the key facts.
Most strikingly, one of the victims of the Eid al Fitr attacks seems to have found a voice through the medium of blogging. Wounded Girl From Cairo appears to be by one of the women attacked on Eid al Fitr, and her description of her ordeal is required reading.
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Filed under: Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Middle East & North Africa, Online Video, Politics, Protest, Technology, WITNESS, Women