In support of Women’s History Month, CSUN hosted a presentation about women’s activism that took place during the recent revolt in Egypt. Dr. Sherine Hafez, professor of women’s studies at UC Riverside, spoke in the Whitsett room of Sierra Hall to a packed and diverse room.
“Women’s Equal Rights Movement is the largest in the world with over 100 million women,” Hafez said. “Arab women are not a special case, women worldwide suffer discrimination and oppression.”
On Jan. 25, 2011, a revolt took place in Egypt, which originated in Tunisia and later filtered throughout Libya, Iran and nearby countries. Women stood alongside other men with their children, bonded by one single purpose: end corruption in the government.
Hafez outlined the demands Egyptians made for those in power and stressed the point that these demonstrations were peaceful. Other demands are to lift emergency laws, free detainees in jail and host free elections for the people.
For the constitution, Hafez said, it has been altered over the many years to fit whatever situations arise from the men in power. The Egyptians want it rewritten in a more democratic way without basing it solely on Islam.
“These women were not narrowly focused on religious views, but more for a modern change,” Hafez said. “I’ve been researching Islamic women for six years and many women I interviewed don’t want to rub religion onto someone. They believe religion is a private practice.”
Hafez said Egypt’s protest organizers mobilized people through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Thousands of people flocked to Tahrir Square in Cairo where police were overwhelmed by the amount of citizens. As the tension broke, police forces beat and shot demonstrators, resulting in an initial estimate of 350 deaths, but is speculated to be as great as 1,000 deaths, Hafez said.
Tahrir Square showed strong solidarity between men and women. All types stood next to one another from all walks of life. Hafez said that protesters were extremely tolerant of one another during the revolt and that revolutions can help a situation, but it’s still difficult, if not impossible, to change social norms.
“Women are fighting to be represented equally, not so much for independence like American women, but more importantly, they want to be respected as a gender and still receive their rights,” Hafez said.
Students who turned out for the presentation filled the chairs and sat on the floor along the wall to listen. Those who haven’t been following the news over the past month were surprised to hear what was going on.
“I liked it! A while ago, I stopped watching the news because it was so sad all the time,” Ingrid Ludwig, junior in kinesiology, said. “It was very enlightening as an American woman to see these women with such strong words and conviction. The passion in the video really got to me.”
Ludwig served in the U.S. Navy and said she has always been strong when dealing with men, especially working in Special Forces as a diver. This presentation was a class assignment, however, Ludwig strongly believes that men and women are different, but equal.
Fatma Durak, a graduate student from Turkey, said Egypt’s revolution is about human rights, one that does not discriminate by gender.
“This is a gender respected revolution,” the sociology graduate student said. “It’s not about fundamentalist Islam, but about human rights. No one (men or women) is suppressed or oppressed more than the others. Both have good and bad.”
Durak emphasized the different views of the situation between American women and other women. Being born and raised in Turkey, Durak said this was a great way to have women “dialed in” and really shows the unity between them.