By Ann Mossop, Head of Public Programs, Sydney Opera House
Anyone who met Mona Eltahawy at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas found out pretty quickly that she was a rapid -fire tweeter. Last week, her stream of ideas, encounters and activism took a disturbing turn:
- Beaten arrested in interior ministry
- 12 hours with Interior Ministry bastards and military intelligence combined. Can barely type – must go xray arms after CSF pigs beat me.
- 5 or 6 surrounded me, groped and prodded my breasts, grabbed my genital area and I lost count how many hands tried to get into my trousers.
Detained for 12 hours before being released with her left arm and right hand broken, she had been on the frontline in Tahrir Square, covering events there as was French journalist Caroline Sinz when she was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the crowd.
When Mona, a prominent Egyptian American journalist, came to Sydney for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in October, she brought us a firsthand account of the Arab spring and the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. She was one of the most exciting speakers at the festival, full of optimism, at her fieriest on the Festival of Dangerous Ideas edition of Q & A where her enthusiastic swearing caused a flurry of complaints and her passionate flow of words was matched only by that of Slavoj Zizek.
News from Egypt is now very mixed. This week, the ruthless military crackdown on protesters and demonstrators in Tahrir Square has seen 42 killed and 3000 wounded. Today, Egypt’s first post-Mubarak elections are starting to unfold, with the stories of people’s first free voting experience tempered only by reports of irregularities of various sorts.
From outside, we see tend to see what is happening in Egypt in terms of the dramatic pictures of Tahrir Square, whereas the real future is probably being written behind the scenes. The ruling military council seems to have been quietly making friends with the former main opposition to the Mubarak regime, the Muslim Brotherhood. More extreme Islamist parties like the Salafi Al Nour party have emerged, who list women candidates in the election, but instead of showing their pictures on electoral material, feature pictures of their husbands.
While the role of courageous women in the original protests was strong, the new President and parliament that emerge from the long and complicated electoral process are likely to be overwhelmingly male, and unlikely to be chosen from the liberal secularists of Cairo.
Whatever happens in Tahrir Square and at the polls, no revolution will magically deliver equality for women or as Mona writes about the naked blogger Aliaa Mahdy ‘revolutions cannot succeed without a tidal wave of cultural changes that upend misogyny and sexual hypocrisy’.