Women’s Demonstration in Egypt
Women demonstrated in Cairo on Wednesday as part of a general protest by journalists and other oppositionists. They maintain that they were manhandled by Egyptian security forces during a demonstration last week during a popular referendum. The question in the referendum was whether other parties should be able to field candidates to compete with Hosni Mubarak in presidential elections. (In any case, only parties approved by parliament, controlled by Mubarak’s party, will be allowed to field presidential candidates. They will exclude the Muslim Brotherhood, the major opposition group in the country). The narrowness of the referendum and the likelihood that it will leave the system unchanged provoked the original demosntrations.
The protesters alleged that female journalists and protesters were groped and handled inappropriately, even stripped of clothing, by security forces last week. They are demanding that the Interior Minister resign.
In conservative Egypt, charges of groping women are extremely serious, and the opposition is milking the issue for all it is worth. The protest cleverly combines the symbol of the new middle class (modern female journalists and protesters) and a potent symbol for the Muslim religious groups– the sanctity of Egyptian women.