Egypt, February 2011
For years, I have been engaged with youth activities, I was admiring doing this and when my family and friends were asking me why I am doing so. My response was” People have to see women in public sphere and deal with them personally, people are changing”. I was not the only one many women were doing so and claimed their public space in these activities. Years after that, me and my friends founded Nazra for Feminist Studies, our main goal is to be visible as young feminist initiative claiming our rights and using our tools. Lots of jokes we received at this time could mad us gave up, such as being a cool group and working with small groups.
I kept my struggle to say that feminism is a way of life. Feminism is politics and working on it out of political sphere makes it not worthy.
Lots of incidents happened last year, such as parliamentary election and sectarian clashes and I insisted to be involved as many women did at this time.
Then January 25th came, this historical moment, which most of us thought it will be like any demonstration just activists will be involved but the fact that Egyptians from all classes, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicities and political ideologies were in made me feel that change is coming. I became so emotional by this time, happy with all changes not only politically but also socially happening in Egypt.
We as women kept for many years were afraid to walk in the streets and became obsessed by sexual harassment; I remember a fight with one of my best male friends in 2005 on this issue. He kept arguing on the importance to highlight socioeconomic effect of sexual harassment not only the cultural issue and women should stop being afraid of the public sphere. At this time, I claimed that he is just a patriarchal man who loves to enjoy the privilege of his space in this society but even before Jan 25 I began to rethink this issue and feel that this call could be a way to segregate us more that having more space and from Jan 25 I just felt it, I saw women protesting, helping injured people, human rights activists documenting all cases, protecting checkpoints ,and doing guidance for men through downtown streets to use the safest road and sleeping in same place with men without any social burden. I was one of those doing something and I felt safe for the first time I walked in downtown streets feeling this, I saw respect and appreciation in eyes of many men who dealt with me for years as alien that I am obsessed by gender issues. I had long discussions with people who kept for many years not talking with them due to differences in political views or social norms. I smoked in streets and danced and people were just happy with me. I received phone calls from different friends and family members apologizing for dealing with me as a crazy person. I got support from my mother who I owe her my strengthen but she was not confessed by what I am doing and she said “now I know the role of feminism, without these efforts, all those women will not be in streets these days”.
I met lots of new people these days and others who I did not see for years and I got to know each person as he/she is without masks. I saw new youth groups are formed and was super happy to be with them. I appreciated having lots of friends who supported me during all days.
I overcame lots of body issues and ideas I felt I believed in for years.
I am in love with my country which I did not have historical moment with it because I was born and raised outside it. I am proud of being Egyptian after seeing all civilized attitudes.
I have been saying that Egyptian women are not just veiled, uneducated women who dream only to be married and I saw these women in the last 18 days. I saw women praying beside men not behind them. I saw men not asking me to pray and not letting me out of a place because I am not veiled and assumed to be non religious.
I had to choose all last days and I am happy I chose right. I chose my country, my people, my friends and my lover. I know for sure that I am on right track and will continue being so.
We won first phase and women created their public space and showed to the world that we do not need protection and I do think that women will not loose this space for the sake of any thing. I know we will be organized in new forms and demanding our rights without having the fear of alienation and exclusion.
It is the beginning and will continue demanding our space, happiness and freedom. We are writing history of Egypt and will always. Women history will not be gray one , it will be part of ours.
*Mozn Hassan is Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies in Cairo, Egypt