“I’m a corporate lawyer and just before the revolution, I had taken time off and I was about to start up a new thing and then I decided to dedicate myself to the work that I’m doing now.”
Ragia Omran, 38, has been active in civil society and Human Rights for a long time. She’s part of the New Woman Foundation, a feminist organization, since 1995. She’s also part of the defense team for Egypt’s protesters, which was working informally since 2005 and was later formally established in 2008. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bryn Mawr, an all-women Ivy League college, Bachelor of Arts in Law from Cairo University and Masters in Law from Queen Mary, London. We sat with Ragia to delve more into the life of the interesting lawyer, Human Rights Activist and Feminist.
Do you feel that there’s a difference in how the cases are being dealt with before and after the revolution?
There is no change. I think now maybe the only thing is that they’re more aware that there’s more media and more attention on the violations so maybe they’re a little bit more careful with how they deal with the lawyers. They know that we could get the media and make them look bad so they try to be more careful with how they deal with us, but the treatment is still bad. There are still a lot of Human Rights abuses and violations and torture, not from the judiciary obviously, but from the Armed Forces and the police.
How hopeful are you about winning those cases?
I think all the pressure helps and the campaigns that are on now like the No To Military Trials for Civilians has definitely done some good work. We just have to continue, though, we can’t change things overnight. It’s going to take a long time for things to change but I think that there’s definitely more awareness about Human Rights abuses and what happens when people get arrested so we’re just going need a lot more pressure. I think the most important thing as well is for certain people to be put on trial for inciting this violence and torture, otherwise it’s going to continue but if people are held accountable for these crimes then maybe it will cause some people to think twice before they do it that again.
How do you think the revolution affected women empowerment?
I don’t think women needed the revolution to give them empowerment. Women have always been powerful and strong in Egypt and they have been part of the society and active on all levels. I think they may have just become more visible because the media decided to show them but they’ve always been there. It’s not like these people became activists overnight; some have been active before the revolution even, media and social media just shed more light on that activism. The revolution has given everybody, not just women but men and youngsters too, the opportunity to voice their demands, their rights and to feel that they can speak out and call for what they want.
What are your plans for the next few months?
I’m just going to continue working on the cases. We handle cases of people who were arrested during the Mohamed Mahmoud and Kasr ElAini battles. Many of them are still in prison and we’re trying to get them out. We also have many cases to file for the people who were injured and beaten up so we’re working on that as well.
Ragia continues to be politically and socially active in society. Her activities, work and contribution to Human Rights and the improvement of the Egyptian society deem her one of Egypt’s most reputable and respected women.