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The New Feminist Movement Against Sexual Violence in Egypt 2011–2021

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Abstract

This article takes up the feminist movement against sexual violence in Egypt after January 2011. It argues that the post-revolution movement is a distinct one, distinguished by the narratives of feminist discourse it advances and the various tools it uses. It further asserts that the January revolution represented both a material space arena and grand narrative that allowed for the creation of arenas for action, occupied by new and diverse feminist actors. In turn, this allowed for the production of new discourses and tools for a broad feminist movement, one that does not break in full with its predecessors, but rather represents a continuation and evolution of the older movement. In its methodology, this article relies on ethnography and personal interviews, as well as personal observation. It concludes that the new feminist movement in Egypt has currently moved beyond the struggle for recognition as its animating cause to make the issue of sexual violence in the public sphere the object of a long-term symbolic struggle that aims to change society’s perceptions about the abuses women endure daily in public life.

Introduction

The Arab revolutions and their political trajectories raised unprecedented questions about gender, sexuality, and gender-based violence in all the so-called Arab Spring states. Although the political movements have ebbed as authoritarianism has been reconstituted in most states that saw popular uprisings in the past decade, the question of women’s participation in public life—the nature of and limits on their roles—have remained the object of debate and negotiation in most of these countries. In Egypt, despite the gradual narrowing of the public sphere after the 2013 coup and the authoritarian resurgence, the feminist movement persists, making itself felt in the political, social, and legal spheres. The struggle operates on several fronts: several young women are fighting to become judges, a position currently denied to them[1]; women and feminist groups are battling for the criminalisation of sexual violence and harassment in the workplace and the political and rights communities[2]; and all feminist groups, both those operating on the ground and in digital spaces, are raising issues of young women’s sexuality and their right to independence, mobility, and work. All of these struggles have made women’s issues a locus of controversy and conflict in the wider society over the past four years.

All of this poses a fundamental question: Why has the feminist movement continued and even flourished while most other forms of activism seen during the January revolution have waned? This question raises several secondary but no less important questions: Is the rising feminist movement in Egypt that has coalesced around sexual violence against women, particularly after 2013, a culmination of the social movements that began prior to the 2011 revolution? Or is it better viewed as a new, post-2011 movement, more radical and broad-based than those that came before? Is the mainstreaming of feminist issues a qualitative evolution in the form and nature of the feminist movement in Egypt, or is it an extension of the defence and advocacy efforts seen before 2011? This mainstreaming coincided with the adoption of more radical discourses and tools, such as organised online campaigns and anonymous testimonies from survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by well-known political, cultural, and artistic figures in Egypt.[3]

An examination of the roots of the movement and the reasons for its persistence, and even growth, raise additional theoretical questions about the historical and political development of the Egyptian feminist movement, and definitions of ‘feminist’ and ‘political’ and where they intersect. These questions transcend the narrow theoretical frameworks of some social movement theories. Despite the diverse theoretical approaches of this analytical school, it has not offered frameworks that can explain the specific historical and political development of feminist movements, particularly in the Third World. According to Verta Taylor and Nancy Whitaker, the study of feminist movements has posed multiple challenges to most social science theories since the mid-1970s, in particular when it comes to defining narratives and discourses of social change and distinguishing symbolic from material struggle, and cultural from structural or political change. Feminist and queer movements typically aim to redefine grand narratives about the structure of social roles and their relationship with society’s economic, legal, and political structures, making the focus and aim of these movements more ambitious, though more difficult and complex than those of other demand-oriented social movements or even symbolic movements associated with ethnic, class-based, professional, or identity groups. The feminist movement is thus at times resistant to classification.[4]

It becomes even more complicated when we attempt to pigeonhole the feminist movement in Egypt or elsewhere in peripheral states into a specific historical and political timeline of development. While the history of the movement can be divided into several phases, or waves, that correspond to specific time periods,[5] it is extremely difficult to fully distinguish distinct waves when we look at discourse-building methods and modes of operation on the ground, and the mutual influence between them. This is especially the case when it comes to examining how feminists have framed sexual violence against women as both a social and political problem, since it is bound up with the feminist consciousness of individual feminists. Here we can see a strong resemblance with the development of the feminist movement in other contexts. The development of a feminist consciousness in Egypt does not fundamentally differ from the process in other feminist movements in entirely different contexts. There is no clear, already crystallised awareness; rather, it evolves on the basis of circumstances facing each nascent feminist movement. This makes feminist movements highly diverse, leading some theorists to sometimes doubt that they qualify as social movements.[6]

The primary distinction between feminist movements and other social movements is the organic link between discourse and action.  Although the discourse of feminist movements typically takes the form of campaigns focusing on a specific issue, they are informed by a legacy and lexicon that transcends this single issue and is associated with a long heritage of theory about patriarchy, gender, and the connectedness of all feminist issues. As a result of this interconnection, the discourse of feminist movements often rises above the concrete issue they are addressing, both because they are waging struggles on symbolic issues that fall in the realm of subjective consciousness and because of the way social intersubjectivity imposes itself on individual subjectivity.[7] Like other social movements, feminist movements often struggle against the political and social system, but unlike those other movements they also run up against collective preconceptions about the social roles of men and women, and these roles’ cultural and social manifestations on the individual and institutional levels. Whatever the object of their struggle, feminist movements strive essentially to break normative assumptions about the nature of social roles, lending their struggle a unique nature. French philosopher and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu expresses this idea as follows: ‘Masculine domination is rooted in the human collective unconscious, becoming an invisible, imperceptible element in male-female relations. It is thus necessary to bring this unconscious to the surface and transform it into a conscious rewriting of history’.[8] The struggle to change consciousness is essentially a moral struggle to change fundamental ideas about social roles, even if this struggle over ideas and roles takes other dimensions or intersects with concrete issues specific to a time and place.

This paper seeks to analyse these points by focusing on two major concepts that have been fundamental to the construction of the movement’s discourse and the development of its operational modes, and have moreover shaped feminist activists’ view of their role over the course of the movement’s evolution; first, the concept of ‘survivor’ and the broader values of feminist solidarity it has engendered, seen most spectacularly during the ‘We Believe Survivors’ online campaign launched by feminists in summer 2020; and  second, the  concept of publicly exposing sexual assault perpetrators coupled with the right to public anonymity given to survivors. In my view, these two ideas are key to understanding the nature of the new feminist movement against sexual violence in Egypt.[9]

This article proceeds from two main premises: the January 2011 revolution produced a new wave of feminist actors, one mostly involving newcomers to political and public activism in Egypt, in addition to several existing actors, organisations, and institutions. Together these actors played a significant role in politicising and framing women’s issues in a way that helped to publicise them and influence the broader revolutionary movement, despite their occasional marginalisation. This wave began with the revolution itself. Women, particularly young women, played a major role in the first eighteen days of the uprising, though soon many women felt marginalised and believed that the political arrangements that emerged after the revolution inadequately represented women, both as active participants in these frameworks and in terms of giving adequate symbolic representation to their issues and concerns. The disregard of women’s role in the revolution fostered the development of a new consciousness and allowed for an analysis of the position of activists in the January revolution from a feminist or women-centred perspective. Egyptian women engaged fully in the revolutionary movement and a feminist movement took shape that drew in new generations of young women just entering the public sphere. The demands of this feminist waved initially focused on two main topics; first, women’s political participation, both descriptive and substantive,[10] and second, women’s right to be safe in public and action against physical assaults of all types. The latter point will be the focus of this paper.

We could conceive of the January revolution as representing a new physical space and grand narrative that allowed for the creation of spaces for multiple feminists, which in turn permitted the production of new discourses and tools for a broader feminist movement. This movement does not represent a total historical break with its predecessors, but rather intersects with and sustains the various forms of action that came before, representing both continuity and evolution. This article seeks to examine the various forms taken by the feminist movement in Egypt, known for its remarkable decentralisation and diverse array of tools and organisational forms. The paper is divided into three sections and a conclusion. Part one briefly reviews the feminist movement immediately prior to 2011, to understand the then-extant forms of activism and subsequent shift in actors, tools, and discourses. Part two takes up the issue of sexual violence in the public and political spheres, looking at the current array of feminists who have been active on this issue since 2011, the frameworks and tools they use to assert their demands, and their discourse and its relationship with parallel local, regional, and global discourses, as well as the moments crucial to the articulation of these demands. Part three focuses on topics and narratives that have recently become part of the new feminist activism against sexual violence. It examines the analytical discourses and tools used by feminists, with a special focus on the concepts of survivor and public exposure coupled with anonymity for survivors, as central concepts for the Egyptian feminist movement. Finally, the article concludes with observations about the nature of the current feminist movement and its future in light of rising repression and the closure of the public sphere to civic initiatives of all kinds, and how this could impact feminist discourses.

Research Methodology

This paper relies on extensive fieldwork conducted in several stages from 2013 to 2018, in addition to several personal interviews conducted in 2019 and 2020 and additional ethnographic research. The fieldwork referenced here is part of a longer ethnographic project, carried out for the purposes of a book about the state and the feminist movement in Egypt and Tunisia after the Arab Spring. In preparing this paper, I used some twenty research interviews with Egyptian feminists of all ages, focusing specifically on the movement against sexual violence. I also conducted ethnographic digital research, following a number of recently active feminist groups and webpages, with the goal of analysing the discourse and tools of the contemporary feminist movement in Egypt.

As an Egyptian feminist who participated in feminist activities in Egypt before and after 2011, I also rely on direct personal observation. As a result of my position as an Egyptian feminist researcher, my academic study and feminist work will necessarily intersect, sometimes inextricably so, and I cannot deny that this has influenced my fieldwork and the conclusions reached by this study. Despite the comparative edge this gives me as a researcher, this position also poses several challenges related to the contradiction between my role as a researcher and my role as an active participant in many of the events of the movement I study. Some of the research participants had preconceptions about my affiliations and personal opinions on subjects raised during the interviews as a result of previous personal knowledge. This led some to react defensively when giving their own opinions—an issue I attempted to overcome as much as possible. With time, I felt that my intimate knowledge of most of the people, opinions, and debates within the movement meant that I knew only one part of the story. This was affirmed by Becker and Faulkner in their renowned study of jazz, a community in which they were involved as musicians rather than researchers.[11] My position as both a researcher and activist enriched my fieldwork and revealed, to me at least, the importance of setting aside our many biases, particularly when we have deep knowledge of the research community.

The pre-January 2011 Movement: Activism within NGOs and under a State Monopoly on Feminism

In the years leading up to the January revolution, action on women’s issues was limited to two main fronts: first, the work of rights organisations and second, individual women’s unorganised daily struggle against violence in the public sphere and discrimination in both the public and private spheres. In the latter field, litigation over certain issues—freedom from sexual harassment (the case of Noha Rushdi, 2008)[12] and proof of paternity (the case of Hind al-Henawi, 2005)[13]—stand out. Sexual violence was not an animating cause for the feminist movement until the mid-2000s, and rights and women’s organisations played a prominent role by adopting a feminist perspective on the issue, piercing the heretofore overwhelming public silence surrounding it.[14] These NGOs also played a major role in most advocacy campaigns supporting women who filed lawsuits in defence of rights and in documenting the growing phenomenon of sexual harassment and violence against women in the public sphere. HarassMap, for example, encouraged women and witnesses to report details of incidents of sexual harassment in Cairo with the purpose of making an online map that documented the place and time of incidents.[15]

The feminist movement at this time faced two basic challenges. Firstly, regime-linked figures held a monopoly on women’s issues, and state institutions like the National Council for Women, established under Mubarak as a way to burnish the regime’s international image, controlled all relevant national entities and mechanisms. Secondly, most people working on women’s rights cast them in broad terms as developmental or cultural issues. With the exception of a handful of organisations working on women’s rights from a feminist perspective—most prominently the New Woman Centre for Studies, Nazra for Feminist Studies, and the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance—most organisations worked on feminist issues without making a serious attempt to politicise women’s discourse. This was no longer possible after the 2011 revolution, when women’s issues were rapidly politicised. By ‘politicisation’ I mean addressing women’s issues not as an apolitical part of general human rights or social development, but as an independent cause, linked to a historical movement visible in various waves starting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[16] Looking at the approach to women’s issues in this period, we immediately see that most institutions working on them were part of more general political and social modernisation efforts in Egypt or of the broader rights movement that flourished in the last decade of Mubarak’s tenure. Structurally bound up with the historical conflict between the state and the opposition, these latter organisations made no attempt to assert women’s issues as political per se. The politicisation of women’s issues is linked with the growth of a distinct movement, separate from both the broader political opposition and the rights movement. Under Mubarak (1981–2011) this could not be achieved, but it later became possible for reasons that will be discussed at length in the next section.

In addition to work documenting violations and research undertaken to plug the digital gap, some organisations working on sexual harassment prior to 2011 attempted to impact the mainstream social discourse around the issue, framing women’s right to movement, bodily safety and freedom from violence, and the right to make decisions about their bodies as a broader defence of women’s reproductive and sexual rights. They also took pains to confront the reactionary discourses that came with increased sexual harassment, such as victim blaming, in which women are held responsible for being sexually harassed because of what they are wearing or being in public at a certain time, or even simply for being in public at all. Despite serious feminist efforts on this front, attempts that went beyond documentary or research activities were extremely modest. The absence of a grassroots dimension to the feminist movement is a basic feature of such movements around the world, given that they typically address questions that offend the social mainstream and disrupt the conservative patriarchal structures of society, but there is nevertheless an immense difference on the symbolic and discursive levels between the movement and its influence before January 2011 and after it. The spread of sexual violence on all levels may be important for understanding the movement’s growing influence on society and public opinion in the later phase.

The year 2005 was pivotal for the question of sexual violence in Egypt. While the phenomenon certainly existed in public before this, several events of that year fostered greater awareness of it. In one infamous incident known later as ‘Black Wednesday,’ the state hired thugs to sexually assault female journalists and activists protesting the constitutional amendments. Although images of women in the street with torn clothes were utterly shocking and novel at that time, the response was limited to a candlelit vigil held by activists wearing black; the incident did not offend the vast majority of people.[17] Responses remained within the circle of political and rights activists, all of whom treated the incident as yet another of the Mubarak regime’s political crimes. No one then understood the full significance of the sexual assault of women in the heart of Cairo in broad daylight. Indeed, no one took special note a year later—specifically on 22 October 2006, the first day of the Ramadan Eid—when the first incidents of mass sexual harassment began downtown. On that day, mobs of young men attacked women unfortunate enough to cross their path, tearing at their clothing and sexually assaulting them. At the time, there was a full media blackout on these violations, broken only by a handful of bloggers who published photos and details of the incidents. For this, they were accused of smearing Egypt’s reputation and fabricating stories, and the Interior Ministry issued a statement denying any incident of mass sexual harassment. Nevertheless, the phenomenon persisted, and escalated, as the following years saw more frequent verbal and physical harassment in the street and workplace and on public transportation. What was novel about these incidents was not only the total societal denial of them, but also society’s complicity in them.

The year 2008 was a major turning point: Noha Rushdi won the first court case involving sexual harassment and her harasser was sentenced to three years in prison. Insofar as the state was officially recognising harassment as a crime worthy of punishment, this was crucial moment. The case also inspired intense controversy, and the media coverage generated a national debate. The same year, sixteen NGOs from various governorates came together to form the Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force. Operating for several years as an umbrella group on issues of sexual violence, the task force proposed an amendment to the Penal Code on crimes of sexual violence in 2010.

At the same time, developments in the local context helped to further spotlight women’s issues, as rights-based support was augmented by transnational ideological support. At the time, the movement leaned heavily on litigation, either by individual women (e.g., Noha Rushdi) or by rights organisations availing themselves of international mechanisms (e.g., the case of Black Wednesday). The movement therefore depended on groups or individuals who were able to play the role of go-between, mediating between the global or globalised context to the local Egyptian context. Rights groups working on women’s rights played a major role in this period, which saw more intense activity by NGOs following the United Nations conference on women’s rights in Beijing in 1995. Subsequent follow up conferences and mechanisms established instruments to monitor women’s rights and created spaces for women’s rights activists to exchange experiences, thus improving their ability to launch defence, advocacy, and awareness campaigns on issues like sexual harassment. Despite the importance of these transnational ties to the developing consciousness of many women activists and their tools, the absence of a broad movement coalescing around these rights meant that their significance was limited to rights circles and campaigns of modest influence or strategic litigation before local and international bodies. This would change only after the January revolution, which made it possible for many young women to become involved in civic life and also generated more grassroots backing for the movement.

In sum, the pre-2011 feminist movement was defined by three main features; one, activity was concentrated in several NGOs and specific feminist institutions; two, despite their importance, most activities did not politicise women’s issues given the then-closed political climate and the regime’s national monopoly on women’s issues; and three, violence against women in the public sphere genuinely increased, particularly after 2005, amid state disregard and sometimes collusion. At this time, the state did not punish offenders and state media adopted a discourse of victim blaming, while the state and wider society utterly failed to confront the phenomenon.

The Post-2011 Movement Against Sexual Violence: Women’s Right to Safe Public Spaces

Activism by groups against sexual violence in the public sphere has been a significant feature of the feminist movement in recent years. Bringing in dozens of groups and hundreds of volunteers, men and women, from all over Egypt, this movement constituted the nucleus of a broader social movement that continues to take shape. It has adopted several discourses, some of them feminist and some more generally rights-oriented, but both types focus on the issue of women’s bodily safety and their presence in the public sphere. This movement is a clear example of how vital social issues exploded as part of the broader protest movement accompanying the revolution. Although the question of violence against women was raised prior to the revolution, the development of a movement in which women and men participated on equal footing fundamentally transformed social engagement with the issue and the discourse around it. Like any historical period witnessing change or a movement aspiring to change, the events of the revolution impacted the feminist movement and vice-versa. This section of the paper asserts that the feminist movement itself observably changed after the revolution, which helped to widely publicise the issue of sexual violence and draw in greater grassroots support from many social sectors, not only progressive groups. Among the most important causes of this shift is the sexual violence around Tahrir Square. As a result of these incidents, hundreds of young women and men became involved with the movement and their awareness of the issue grew. This was part of a wider social ferment associated with the January revolution, which put women’s issues on the broader public agenda. In turn, women’s causes became more popular, which gave these groups the unprecedented ability to influence public opinion more than previous feminist waves.

Although sexual assault was absent during the first eighteen days of protest that led to Mubarak’s abdication, it quickly returned. CBS correspondent Lara Logan was a victim of a mass assault while covering the celebrations following Mubarak’s ouster.[18] On 8 March 2011, International Women’s Day, unknown assailants attacked a march by women demanding their rights, and harassed the participants. The next day, military forces broke up an assembly in Tahrir Square, detained several female demonstrators, and conducted virginity tests on some of them.[19] Similar incidents specifically targeting women followed. Women peacefully demonstrating during the Mohammed Mahmoud and Cabinet events in November and December 2011 were battered. Public assaults peaked in November 2012 and January 2013, and again in June and July 2013 during demonstrations in Tahrir Square and its environs. Women demonstrators and passers-by were subjected to brutal sexual assaults, some of them involving bladed weapons.[20] For many women who had taken part in the revolution, the growing crimes of public violence against women fully crystallised the terrifying extent and reality of violence against unarmed female protestors.

The formation of most of these groups coincided with the mass sexual assaults and rapes in Tahrir Square, which began in November 2012, forcing everyone to discuss the issue, often grudgingly. This was also the time marking the first meeting of volunteers with Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH).[21] Several organisations involved in combating violence against women, most prominently Nazra for Feminist Studies, also began addressing the issue of sexual violence, tentatively at first, then more directly after Yasmine al-Baramawi bravely shared the details of her mass sexual assault in a television interview.[22] Culminating in gang rape, these assaults were a critical juncture in the lives of the movement’s volunteers. Many of them describe this time as the true beginning of their activism and their first real sense of the degree of injustice faced by ‘women generally and women demonstrators in particular’.[23] Many of the volunteers I met at this time, both women and men, said that they had begun to develop a genuine feminist consciousness because of these incidents.

Numerous volunteer groups working mostly on this issue were founded at this time, among them Tahrir Bodyguards and I Saw Harassment. Each of these groups was established for different reasons. Take OpAntiSH, for example, one of the first of these groups. One founding member says that the sexual assault of a friend around Tahrir in November 2012 was the group’s motivating cause: ‘When a friend of ours was sexually assaulted while taking part in a political event, we were all shocked and terrified, which impressed on us the necessity of doing something. Yes, it was an extremely personal reason initially, but with time, the objective became to secure the square and guarantee participation for women without fear’.[24] In contrast, the decision to form Tahrir Bodyguards was completely spontaneous. As its name suggests, the group was essentially a set of young men who sought to protect female demonstrators in Tahrir. The group never developed a more complex understanding of their involvement, whether a radical revolutionary or feminist conception. Volunteers with Tahrir Bodyguards expressed the nature of their activity in extremely pragmatic terms, prioritising action over any conceptualisation of it.[25]

All these groups similarly drew in a broad array of actors, from an exceptionally diverse set of members and volunteers[26] to institutions working specifically in human rights and women’s rights. These latter played an important role in incubating these movements, articulating a political and social discourse around sexual violence, and offering support like medical and psychological aid to survivors.[27] A third type of actor was feminist groups active on social media, especially Facebook, where they organise digital campaigns against harassers and are developing an important feminist discourse on the main social media platform for youth, for example on the pages Girls Revolution and Arab Women’s Uprising. This type of actor became more widespread after the decline of overt political activism in the wake of the 2013 events. The resurgence of political authoritarianism and the gradual closure of all spaces for political action in Egypt led many feminist activists to turn to online campaigns and platforms (as discussed in the next section).

Many of the young women active in these various groups later went on to drive youth feminist initiatives in the provinces after June 2013. Many of them are concentrated largely in groups or activities against sexual violence and harassment. The struggle against sexual violence in the public and political spheres was an important avenue for these young women to talk about sexual violence as a daily problem facing women in Egypt. Their activism is motivated partly by the rage that many feel at the disregard shown to their issues; some of them also suffered violations of varying degrees during revolutionary activities or at times within supposedly progressive groups. Many young women have spoken of how quickly they began to identify the ‘revolutionary’ with the ‘feminist’. At times, this is because the derailment of the revolution is associated with the derailment of feminist issues in the revolution; at others, it is because of the explosion of abuses against women coupled with the disregard and even collusion of many in the civic and rights communities.[28]

Although feminists’ evolving consciousness of and involvement in the issue of sexual violence was the master frame that united them all, divergences later emerged within various groups.[29] Most of them agree that they were involved in a network established in late November 2012,  yet a sample of members I spoke to in 2014 and 2015 expressed reservations about defining the movement as ‘feminist’. The most commonly cited reasons were their belief that feminism is not the sole avenue by which to understand women’s issues and their perception that their defence of women’s right to the public sphere was part of their revolutionary activism. Several founders of I Saw Harassment said explicitly that they had adopted a ‘less provocative’ discourse, even if their personal conviction was quite different than what they expressed as a group trying to attract more supporters and expand their geographic reach.[30] This philosophy was gradually translated into an institutional form. For example, currently Basma is attempting to become a civic organisation with branches around the country. This stands in contrast to the decentralised structure of most other movements, which include decentralised entities and at times simply an online presence that is able to articulate a discourse with broad reach on specific issues.[31]

In addition to shifts in and the evolution of activists’ consciousness, between the revolutionary and the feminist, there is also their position vis-à-vis the state. Many of these groups found themselves performing ostensibly state functions. Anti-sexual violence groups acted as police, for example, and organisations offered medical, psychological, and legal aid that should be provided by the state. As one woman said, ‘Presenting a discourse about state collusion in and encouragement of violence against women is important because confronting sexual violence against women in the streets and squares should be the responsibility of the state first and foremost’.[32]

This discourse, particularly as it concerns the state’s responsibility to address public sexual violence against women, has been influenced by an extremely complex local context, one that has given rise to a revolutionary feminist movement with a global consciousness, impacted by Western conceptions of rights and emerging global movements concerned with violence and the sexual exploitation of women in all areas of work and school. At first glance, it may seem contradictory for a movement that grew out of anti-state revolutionary activism to adopt a discourse about the state’s responsibility to keep women safe from violence in the public sphere. However, this apparent contradiction becomes more comprehensible if we view the movement as simultaneously influenced by a local unconventional revolutionary context and, in its rhetoric and tools, by transnational discursive frameworks and methods, demonstrated in its appeal to the state to assume its responsibility to protect women. Similarly, it relies on institutional channels such as litigation and criticises the role of medical and legal institutions, attempting to engage with them to heighten their awareness of women’s reality and make them more sensitive to the particular nature of violence against women. The anti-sexual violence movement in Egypt is thus clearly an adaptation of the global—whether in terms of its rights orientation or culture, both clearly Western influenced—to the local and revolutionary context. It creatively combines both of these aspects, and its animating causes are simultaneously wholly local and wholly in keeping with the moment.

Somehow, the movement has managed to develop a cohesive discourse about the state’s responsibility without sacrificing the feminist awareness of the role patriarchal culture and societal violence play in exacerbating violence against women in the public sphere. At the peak of activism between 2013 and 2015, before many of these groups were forced to shutter their activities, the movement against sexual violence also managed to convey this discourse to the broad public and break the silence around sexual violence, not only in Tahrir Square but all over Egypt. At the time, the movement articulated a conception of sexual violence as crimes of violence targeting women qua women, inseparable from society’s general view of women and their bodies as inferior. This vision framed sexual violence first and foremost as a crime of violence, directed against women of all kinds every day, whether in the street or workplace, or while engaging in any form of civic action.[33] This complex understanding of the causes of sexual violence and the joint responsibility of state and society for it helped to pave the way for a more radical approach to sexual violence in the coming phase.

We Believe Survivors and Questions of Anonymity: Towards the Radicalisation of Issues of Sexual Violence in Egypt

The feminist movement in Egypt entered a new phase as revolutionary activism receded and several anti-sexual violence groups suspended their activities between 2013 and 2018. With the movement’s evolving frameworks and discourses, a contradiction emerged for many feminist activists between the political, the feminist, and the rights-oriented. This became apparent as the movement grew and engaged further with the global context, particularly after the beginning of the Me Too movement.[34]

The influence of that global campaign on the youth feminist movement in Egypt is visible in more than one respect. The global movement coincided with the organisational transformation of the Egyptian movement: as the anti-sexual violence groups formed in 2012 and 2013 declined, they opened a space for various feminist initiatives. These were no longer simply volunteer groups working on the single issue of sexual violence and harassment. Rather, they identified themselves as feminist groups working on numerous feminist issues in their local communities. They included young women who had come to Cairo to work or study and launched an initiative to support single girls living alone,[35] and women pursuing initiatives in their own governorate, from the north in Damanhour (the Bint al-Nil group[36]) to the south in Aswan (the Free South group[37]), as well as still other groups who chose to revive the feminist press in Egypt (She Has Other Faces[38]). Perhaps for the first time, a youth feminist movement was coming into focus that challenged the marginalisation of the provinces and was breaking the capital’s monopoly on most forms of feminist activism in Egypt. An analysis of the tools and discourses employed by these initiatives and the challenges they faced demonstrates a different approach to issues of freedom of movement, and the right to bodily privacy and safety. For the first time, a digital space opened up to allow for voices on previously taboo or unaddressed issues, such as female circumcision/female genital mutilation. Online spaces and the official media began to air, perhaps for the first time, the voices of women who had undergone the procedure, describing their physical and psychological pain.

These newcomers represent the merging of the local with the global, having developed tools and methods bearing a global feminist discourse and adopting this discourse to suit local realities in Egypt. Particularly remarkable is the way these young women have used various electronic mediums, particularly the internet, to bridge their geographic and class differences, not only in terms of support and solidarity networks or international funding, but also to penetrate cultural and advocacy circles in Cairo. Using primarily the internet, these young women have made their voices heard, collected testimonies from women of similar social backgrounds, whether class or geographic, and delivered their message to broad segments of the public.

This combination of local feminist discourse and mediums and globally influenced discourses is apparent in youth feminist initiatives, local and national campaigns addressing violence against women, and in political and advocacy work and communities. In building this movement, these young women also rely on discourses and modes of action learned in previous years, at the height of the revolutionary tide. The movement thus draws on diverse local and international frameworks. We need only mention a few prominent recent incidents of harassment to see examples of their campaigns and how they engage with harassment or sexual exploitation in institutional settings. At one prominent Egyptian newspaper, the editor harassed a female subordinate, prompting her to report the harassment; the incident is still under litigation.[39] Numerous feminist groups and individuals came out in support of the complainant, and her case was treated as an example of the kind of institutional injustice survivors of sexual violence face, particularly after the complainant was arbitrarily fired from her job as a journalist. Feminist groups, both those operating on the ground and in cyberspace, decried the fact that such incidents usually end up quietly closed absent any action, pointing to the authorities’ collusion with the harasser, either in pressuring the complainant to retract her lawsuit or closing the case and forestalling legal action.

The influence of global discourses and tools in the condemnation of sexual violence against women was apparent in youth feminist initiatives on several recent occasions. In the well-known ‘email’ incident, a letter was first circulated on email, then WhatsApp and Facebook, in which an Egyptian young woman related the details of a sexual assault that took place a few years earlier in the setting of an Egyptian civil society organisation. The email incident is distinct in that it was based entirely on an email and the woman did not take legal action. Moreover, when the email was sent, neither party belonged to a single institution with a policy that could be applied for allegations of harassment and rape, although the parties did work together in a single institution at the time the incident occurred. The incident also took place at an important political moment. The alleged perpetrator, who worked in a legal advocacy organisation that he helped to found and lead, was also a founding member of a leftist opposition party then in the process of establishment. At the time, he had announced his candidacy for president, and he, his campaign team, and his political party all came under pressure to withdraw his nomination, which is what eventually happened.

Youth feminist initiatives and several independent feminists launched a campaign on social media to compel the alleged offender’s party, his presidential campaign, and himself to make public the findings of the party investigation conducted into the incident. The investigation produced a lengthy report summarised by party leaders in a statement that attempted to satisfy all parties involved, a task in which they failed miserably. The campaign ended in success, symbolic at least, for feminist movements: the candidate was compelled to apologise publicly on social media.[40]

The incident demonstrates a growing divergence between the general rights-oriented discourse and the feminist discourse led by youth feminist groups. It exposed the multiplicity and complexity of feminist discourses, visions, and perceptions in Egypt, laying bare an extremely rich and diverse movement and a sophisticated debate around sexual violence in public and political spheres. It also went a long way towards highlighting the disengagement between the feminist cause and the larger revolutionary movement, allowing young feminist movements and voices to advance new discourses and organisational forms, influenced by the transnational and global movement around women’s causes. Specifically, this incident spurred a fiery debate on social media on a fundamental feminist principle that had already emerged in the previous stage: the principle of believing survivors.

As such, the email incident marked a clear dividing line between the feminist movement that came before it and the one after it. Coinciding with the global Me Too movement, it also contributed to teaching and encouraging many feminists to voice a social feminist discourse about the roles of men and women and the meaning of consent in sexual relations, challenging not only many prevailing customs but also traditional feminist discourses in Egypt. This does not mean that these young women developed an identity-based discourse focused wholly on heterosexual women like the new social movements in the West, in which cultural identity plays a major role in mobilisation. Rather, they raised these issues in a radical way that addressed the nature of mainstream heterosexual relations in Egyptian society, asking bold questions about women’s right to consent to sex and what defines it, in a vehement assault on entrenched male privileges in Egypt. This is particularly apparent in a number of recent campaigns that revolve around the slogan ‘We believe survivors’—a slogan adopted by the feminist movement as a strategic choice since the email incident—most importantly the case of Ahmed Bassam Zaki and the Fairmont Hotel rape case. The year 2020 was a strong one for various feminist campaigns against sexual violence in Egypt; some of them scored legal wins and others made social gains, while the vast majority did some combination of both. The starting point was the case of Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a young man currently being held on charges of sexually assaulting and raping dozens of young women and minor girls over more than a decade. The party largely responsible for Zaki’s exposure and arrest was an anonymous group known as Assault Police, which gathered numerous testimonies from women assaulted by Zaki.[41]

Zaki’s case was followed by another one that shook all of Egyptian society: the gang rape committed at the Fairmont Hotel in Cairo. The same group—Assault Police—posted on their Instagram account that they possessed an audio and video tape of the crime and they published the full names of the perpetrators. (The group soon closed its account after the administrators received death threats.) At the same time, the Public Prosecution issued arrest warrants for the Fairmont rape suspects, banned them from travel, and put their names on the travel watch list at Egypt’s airports.[42]

Throughout 2020, feminist groups exposed more cases on social media. The year also witnessed a radical framing of the concept of ‘survivor’ as an alternative to ‘victim’. With their extraordinary courage, survivors, usually anonymous, have offered an exemplar that has acquired a symbolic dimension for most of these movements, which have adopted the idea of believing survivors as a pivotal, organising concept. The survivor is not a victim, but a brave woman who chooses to use her horrific experience as a means of gaining the wider social recognition of the crime of sexual violence, its destructive impact on women, and women’s presence in the public sphere. The movement’s struggle at this stage focuses primarily on what the literature on social movements calls ‘the struggle for social recognition’. In other words, their efforts are largely aimed at a symbolic and moral affirmation of social problems. In turn, the symbolic struggle over concepts plays a vital role in the mechanisms of this movement.[43]

The slogan ‘We believe survivors’ represents the peak of this symbolic movement. Feminist groups have attempted to break the old, familiar forms of activism on women’s issues in Egypt, and anti-sexual harassment movements and groups in Egypt have witnessed a qualitative leap in feminist activism. For the first time, we see a movement around issues that lay at the heart of feminism, raised by wholly volunteer-based groups, doing incredibly important and difficult grassroots work that was not on the agenda of revolutionary forces themselves even during and after the mass rapes in Tahrir Square. This movement is asking profound questions about the body and its inviolability, and women’s right to a public presence. The current movement has produced multiple feminist groups seeking to break the dominance of the centre—that is, Cairo. And by using electronic mediums, they have been able to address the issues of young women in the provinces, storming the public sphere and wresting social and political acknowledgement of the importance of their causes. Most feminist groups that have appeared recently have adopted the ‘We believe survivors’ slogan as they broach topics made recently relevant by the Fairmont Hotel and Ahmed Bassam Zaki cases.

In addition, most young activists have developed tools and discursive frameworks for the movement, especially on social media. The Speak Up Facebook page, for example, relies primarily on contributions from participants, who tell their own stories of sexual violence in the public sphere and comment on others, while encouraging women to resist violence by breaking the silence around it. The page’s main contribution to the anti-sexual violence movement lies in its publication of survivors’ stories about everyday sexual violence and the way it links them to a simple feminist discourse about the relationship between public and private sexual violence and wider society’s complicity in these crimes. The page has also played an important role in connecting Facebook users with groups, initiatives, and organisations working to combat sexual violence, whether directly by intervening to stop assaults or by offering legal, psychological, and legal assistance if necessary. This exchange was especially marked in the movement around recent incidents such as the Zaki and Fairmont Hotel cases.[44]

In seeking to mainstream basic ideas about survivors’ right to speak and confront society over its complicity in the culture of sexual violence, the movement is running up against the repressive political climate in Egypt. Although there still remain spaces for sharing and work on these issues, the state’s campaigns championing morals and Egyptian family values have targeted several female social media activists and producers of ‘inappropriate’ content.[45] Once more, the state’s problematic relationship with the feminist struggle is being felt. This is a state that tolerates forms of feminist activism it deems politically insignificant—indeed, it may exploit such movements to burnish its own image as a supporter of women’s struggles—while its legal system works to regulate the feminist movement and often defang it by subordinating it to heterosexual gender norms, a patriarchal legal system, and a classism that cannot brook even the suggestion of change or rebellion. One can understand why many groups working in this field are now resorting to anonymity—both for the survivors and those who assist them—to protect survivors from social stigma and collusion as well as the state’s legal and police apparatus, which has indeed targeted some women in the Fairmont case and several young female TikTok stars.[46]

Conclusion

It is still too early to judge what these multiple feminist visions, ideas, and activities will bring in the future. The diversity of views could be expected to produce sophisticated forms and new ideas about women’s issues, ultimately paving the way for a stronger, more mature movement. Recent events have shown that the movement has moved beyond the struggle for recognition of itself and its issues to raise the question of women’s presence in public and political spaces. Its approach to sexual violence similarly goes further than the direct politicisation of the feminist issue through its linkage to the January revolution and has taken up the symbolic struggle to change society’s perceptions and ideas about sexual violence and women’s everyday experiences in the public sphere. The movement is thus an important example of the difficulty of separating the symbolic from the material in feminist struggles and social struggles more generally.

Recent activism around sexual violence in Egypt is a departure from older forms of action, although it certainly builds on previous movements. For decades, negotiations over women’s rights in Egypt have been to a great degree an extension of the post-independence state’s relationship with women, or rather their political representatives. Despite a flourishing, vital and authentic women’s movement over the last four years, particularly around the topic of sexual violence in the public sphere, the ability of feminists and female politicians to put these rights on the political agenda remains limited for several reasons, including the nature of the post-independence state project and its failure to allow for institutional channels or legal or political tools that would enable women to negotiate over their rights as enshrined in the constitution and law. On the grassroots level, work on women’s issues prior to the January revolution was limited either to a handful of NGOs or individual women struggling daily against sexual violence in the public and private spheres, and at times suing for specific rights, such as the right to bodily safety.

The January 2011 revolution opened a new avenue to feminist activism, giving rise to a broad feminist movement with semi-mass appeal for the first time and put women’s issues on the public agenda in Egypt. The new feminist movement in Egypt is one of the most significant and enduring gains of the January revolution. In governorates all over Egypt, dozens of young women have found themselves involved in various forms of feminist activism, through which they have redefined themselves. Although it is difficult to predict the outcome of this activism in the short term given the repressive political regime currently in power, the influence of the movement, led by women from outside the centre, will undoubtedly give rise to yet a new feminist movement. Indeed, early signs of this movement are already visible in these groups’ increased activities around various issues.

Young feminist groups’ adoption of a global lexicon and tools in a local context and for local issues, whether they are active online or on the ground, has made for a dynamic movement that is wholly local while simultaneously in touch with the transnational global movement around issues of sexual exploitation. These groups and initiatives are engaged in significant activism that might be the prelude to a genuine mass-based feminist movement that relies neither on conventional organisational structures like NGOs nor on transnational mediums, but on a distinct mixture of the two that could help a new generation of feminist activists to impact the discourse and agenda of women’s rights in Egypt. All the foregoing analysis points to a new stage of feminist action in Egypt, one that thus far appears enduring and strong despite the ever increasing political and social repression of recent years.

This article is originally written in Arabic for Rowaq Arabi

[1] For more information on the law school graduates who are demanding the right to judicial appointment in the State Council and Public Prosecution, see Hassan, Sherine (2018) ‘Hal Hunak Makan li-l-Mar’a al-Misriya fi al-Manasib al-Qada’iya?’ [Is There a Place for Women on the Bench?], Raseef 22, 5 March, accessed 27 October 2021, https://bit.ly/3vOzGzm.
[2] Sexual harassment in the public sphere is one of the most significant issues to emerge for this movement and it persisted even after the horizon for political action narrowed. This requires looking not only at the local dimension of the movement, but at its global dimension as well, linked with the rise of a transnational movement that has made sexual violence against women an animating cause. This is discussed more fully in part three of this paper.
[3] Recently many digital sites and blogs have appeared for the purpose of publicising anonymous statements from survivors of sexual violence. These online spaces are one of the most prominent tools used by the current wave of the movement against sexual violence in several Arab countries, and they rely principally on anonymity as a movement tool, exposing sexual predators while maintaining survivors’ anonymity. Important sites include ‘Journal of Stories’ (Daftar al-Hikayat), which appeared in Egypt in summer 2020, and ‘I Am Zada’, started in 2019 by several Tunisian feminist activists.
[4] Taylor, Verta, and Nancy E. Whitaker (1992) ‘Collective Identity in Social Movement Communities: Lesbian Feminist Mobilization’, in Aldon Morris and Carol McClure Meuller (eds.) Frontiers in Social Movement Theory (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), pp. 104–129.
[5] The idea of ‘waves’ is commonly used to study and assess the history of feminist movements in the academic literature, although recently the concept has come in for criticism for ignoring the intersections and connections between generations and various phases, as well as for its central focus on specific individuals and groups and the disregard of others. For more on this subject, see Nabil, Finan (2021) ‘al-Haraka al-Nisawiya: Mulahazat min al-Nisa’ al-La’i Tajahalatahunn al-Haraka’ [The Feminist Movement: Observations on the Women Ignored by the Movement], Shabab Tafahom, 8 June, accessed 27 October 2021, https://shababtafahom.om/p/2326.
[6] For more on the leftist critique of feminist movements, see Cliff, Tony (1987) Naqd al-Haraka al-Niswaniya [A Critique of the Feminist Movement], Uri Saleh (trans.) (Cairo: Kitab al-Ahali).
[7] For more information on gender subjectivity and the influence of social intersubjectivity, see Butler, Judith (1990) Gender Trouble (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
[8] Bourdieu, Pierre (2002) Masculine Domination: San Francisco: Stanford University Press, pp. 39.
[9] For more information about the evolution of the cause of sexual violence against women in the public sphere, see Ahmed Zaki, Hind, and Dalia Abd Alhamid (2014) ‘Women As Fair Game in the Public Sphere: A Critical Introduction for Understanding Sexual Violence and Methods of Resistance’, Jadaliyya, 9 July, accessed 1 November 2021, https://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/30930.
[10] The literature on women’s political participation tends to distinguish between two types of participation and representation: descriptive (a more quantitative measure), and substantive (more qualitative). Descriptive refers to the number or proportion of women in elected or appointed representative bodies, while substantive refers to the extent to which elected women represent women’s issues. For more on this distinction, see Pitkin, Hanna (1967) The Concept of Representation (Berkeley: University of California Press).
[11] Becker, Howard, and Robert Faulkner (2008) ‘Studying Something You Are Part Of: The View from the Bandstand’ Ethnologie française 37 (2), pp. 129–145.
[12] For more on Noha Rushdi, who won the first lawsuit filed by an Egyptian woman for street sexual harassment, in this case by a driver, see Amar, Paul (2013) The Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism (Charlotte: Duke University Press).
[13] For more information on this famous paternity case, see Ahmed Zaki, Hind (2012) Law As a Tool for Empowering Women within Marital Relations: A Case Study of Paternity Lawsuits in Egypt (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press).
[14] For more information, see Ahmed Zaki and Abd Alhamid (2014).
[15] The HarassMap website explains how to document incidents of harassment for the purpose of raising awareness of various violations and abuses faced by women. See https://harassmap.org/en/.
[16] For more on the history of the feminist movement in Egypt, see Kamal, Hala (2016) ‘A Century of Egyptian Women’s Demands: The Four Waves of the Egyptian Feminist Movement’, in Gender and Race Matter: Global Perspectives on Being a Woman (Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing), pp. 3–21.
[17] For more on Black Wednesday, see al-Badawi, Hanan (2013) ‘al-Arba‘a’ al-Aswad: Hal Tatadhakkar Nawal ‘Ali? Fa-li-Nuraji‘ Idhin Tafasil al-Hikaya’ [Black Wednesday: Do You Remember Nawal Ali? So Let’s Review the Details of the Story], Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 24 May, accessed 27 October 2021, https://bit.ly/3gK3RiJ.
[18] For more on the attack on Lara Logan, see Mabrouk, Iman (2015) ‘Fi al-Yawm al-‘Alami li-l-Mar’a: Ashhar Qadaya al-Taharriush al-Jinsi’, Al-Masry Al-Youm, 8 March, accessed 15 December 2021, https://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/673898.
[19] For more on the virginity tests, see Mock, Geoffrey (2011) ‘“Virginity Tests” for Egyptian Women Protestors’, Amnesty International, 23 March, accessed 9 December 2021, https://blog.amnestyusa.org/middle-east/virginity-tests-for-egyptian-women-protesters/.
[20] For more information on the assaults during demonstrations in the heart of Cairo, see Nazra for Feminist Studies (2014) ‘Egypt: Epidemic of Sexual Violence Continues, 16 April, accessed 17 October 2021, https://nazra.org/en/2014/04/egypt-epidemic-sexual-violence-continues.
[21] Interview with a volunteer and founder of OpAntiSH, 13 October 2013.
[22] See the televised interview at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvBPvIjg8xI.
[23] Interview with a volunteer in a group intervening against harassment, 20 October 2013.
[24] Interview with a volunteer and founder of OpAntiSH, 13 October 2013.
[25] Interview with a volunteer with Tahrir Bodyguards, 22 August 2013.
[26] In a 2015 study seeking to document all groups working to combat sexual violence in Egypt and establish a database to follow significant activities on this front, Mariz Tadros and Shaza Abdel Lateef counted more than fifteen initiatives actively working on the issue as of the end of 2013, in addition to feminist institutions and digital initiatives like Girls Revolution. See Tadros, Mariz, and Shaza Abdel Lateef (2015) ‘Profiles of Collective Actors’, Interactions website, 17 November, accessed 17 October 2021, https://interactions.eldis.org/gender-based-violence/country-profiles/egypt/profiles-collective-actors.
[27] Important civil society associations working in this period include Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and the Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.
[28] Interview with the founder and admin of the Girls Revolution page, 13 July 2015.
[29] The concept of a ‘master frame’ is an important theoretical approach in social movement theory, explaining how social movements, especially decentralised ones, frame a shared vision that unites diverse parties that differ on many particulars. For more information, see Benford, Robert, and David Snow (2000) ‘Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment’, Annual Review of Sociology 26 (3), pp. 611–639.
[30] Interview with a founder of Basma, 12 August 2013.
[31] Interview with a founder of Girls’ Revolution, 11 September 2015.
[32] Interview with a staff member at Nazra for Feminist Studies, 11 September 2015.
[33] For more information on the general political discourse of the movement, see Nazra for Feminist Studies (2014).
[34] The emergence of Me Too coincided with the exposure of the sexual violence experienced by several Hollywood actresses at the hands of famed producer Harvey Weinstein, and it rapidly snowballed into a broader movement in several countries due to the impact of the internet. Me Too inspired numerous other campaigns launched by young women urging others to speak about the sexual exploitation, harassment, and assault they have experienced. Although the movement began in the West, similar campaigns were seen elsewhere in the world. For more information, see Kristof, Nicholas (2018) ‘#MeToo Movement Goes Global’, Seattle Times, 4 May, accessed 17 October 2021, https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/metoo-movement-goes-global/.
[35] See the Femi-Hub Facebook page launched to support single women, https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Cause/Femi-Hub-780813025375003/.
[36] See the Bint al-Nil Facebook pages at: https://www.facebook.com/7rketBntElnil/.
[37] See the Ganoubia Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Ganoubia.
[38] See the group’s Facebook page at: https://wlahawogohokhra.com/home/2717/.
[39] For more information on the incident, see Qadri, Ghada (2018) ‘Taharrush al-Yawm al-Sabi‘: al-Niyaba Tatlub al-Shuhud wa-Balagh min May al-Shami didd Musa’ [Youm7 Harassment: Prosecution Calls Witnesses and May al-Shami’s Report against Moussa], Zahma, 2 September, https://bit.ly/3IWSsZ2.
[40] For more information on the email incident, see Ahmed Rizq, Dunya (2019) ‘Qissat Fatat al-Imayl min Ittiham Khalid ‘Ali bi-l-Taharrush li-Da‘wa Waqf al-‘Aysh wa-l-Hurriya’ [The Story of the Email Girl: From Harassment Allegations against Khaled Ali to the Suspension of the Bread and Freedom Party], Hunn, 18 February, accessed 16 December 2021, https://bit.ly/3tCR33u.
[41] For more on the case of Ahmed Bassam Zaki, see BBC Arabic (2020) ‘Qadiyat Ahmad Bassam Zaki: Hukm bi-Sajnih Thalath Sanawat ma‘ al-Shughl li-Idanatih bi-l-Taharrush al-Jinsi’ [The Case of Ahmed Bassam Zaki: Three-Year Prison Sentence Following Conviction for Sexual Harassment], 29 December, accessed 16 December 2021, https://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast-55475046.
[42] For more information on the Fairmont Hotel case, see Diab, Islam (2021) ‘Ta’jil Muhakamat Muttahami Fadihat al-Firmunt’ [Trial of Fairmont Scandal Defendants Adjourned], Akhbar El-Yom, 14 June, accessed 16 December 2021, https://m.akhbarelyom.com/news/newdetails/3394099/1.
[43] Axel Honneth speaks of the struggle for recognition in the sense of putting the issue on the social agenda by mobilising most of the movement’s discourse around key concepts that form the central axis of the movement at particular times. This concept applies to the principle of ‘believe survivors’ in the movement against sexual violence in Egypt. See Honneth, Axel (1996) The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflict (MIT Press).
[44] See the Speak Up Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/SpeakUp00.
[45] For a critical feminist analysis of issues involved in the preservation of Egyptian family values and the prosecution of several content providers in both traditional and social media, see al-Turki, Sama (2021) Jasad Wahid wa-Mi’at Milyun ‘Ayn: ‘An Quwwat al-Raqaba al-Mujtam‘iya wa-l-Muqawama al-Mutakhaffiya fi Hayz al-Fa‘iliya al-Jinsiya wa-l-Jasadiya li-l-Nisa’ al-Qahirawiyat [One Body and One Hundred Million Eyes: The Power of Social Sanction and Hidden Resistance in the Sexual and Bodily Agency of Cairene Women] (Beirut: Arab Council for the Social Sciences Publications).
[46] For more information on the TikTok girls, see BBC Arabic (2020) ‘al-Hukm ‘ala Hanin Husam wa Mawadda al-Adham bi-l-Sajn wa-l-Gharama fi Misr bi-Tuhmat Nashr Fidiyuhat Khadisha li-l-Hiya’’ [Prison Sentence and Fine for Hanin Hossam and Mowada al-Adham in Egypt on Charges of Publishing Obscene Videos], 27 July, accessed 17 November 2020, https://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast-53555307.

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Hind Ahmed Zaki

Assistant Professor of Political Science at The University of Connecticut, USA.

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