Fighting Rape and Sexual Assault
With the horror stories of gang rape, physical, and verbal sexual assault coming in from Tahrir, one can no longer ignore the rising phenomenon of rape. Not long ago we witnessed a rage of protests on the streets of India when a girl was brutally gang raped and beaten resulting in her death. On the second anniversary of the revolution at least 19 cases of sexual assault were accounted for by Operation Anti Sexual Harassment including 5 cases of rape that needed severe medical attention, yet the streets of Egypt still remains silent of the troubling phenomenon. Debates whether rape and sexual assault towards women in Tahrir has been systematic, politically driven, socially inherited, or all the mentioned have crowded the media, and social networks. But why has the street been silent about rape?
Groups such has HarrassMap, Operation Anti Sexual Harassment, Tahrir Bodyguards, Nazra, Bossy, Baheya Masr, and Etkalemy are doing what they can with volunteers in arranging security groups for protection, gathering testimonies, and accounting for sexual harassment cases while connecting the sexual assault survivors to medical, psychological, and legal specialists.
The difference between India and Egypt is something all of us should explore, but why did thousands go out on the street of India protesting, while in Egypt sexual harassment fighters are also the targets and victims of rape and sexual assault? Women in the revolution have given their lives, bodies, and hard work to gain freedom and social justice, but the increasing phenomenon tells us that unless we all stand by these women, we will all come out short handed.
Bab El Shams: The Gate of Hope
On 11 January 2013, around 250 men and women from across Palestine established a tent village called “Bab Al Shams” (Gate of the Sun) on what the Israeli occupation calls area E1 in the West Bank, which is planned to be turned into yet another Israeli settlement on Palestinian land. The statement from Popular Struggle Coordination Committee reads:
“We, the sons and daughters of Palestine from all throughout the land, announce the establishment of Bab Al Shams Village (Gate of the Sun). We the people, without permits from the occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it…Bab Al Shams is the gate to our freedom and steadfastness. Bab Al Shams is our gate to Jerusalem. Bab Al Shams is the gate to our return…For decades; Israel has established facts on the ground as the International community remained silent in response to these violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground – our own land. This action involving women and men from the north to the south is a form of popular resistance.”
Few days later, Bab Al Shams was forcefully evacuated injuring tens of Palestinians including the badly wounded artist and activist Hafez Omar, and arresting several activists. But Bab Al Shams poses hope and an example of peaceful popular action of resistance that Palestinians believe will one day end their struggle and return their occupied land.
Stop Domestic Violence against Women
The Arab Human Rights Fund (AHRF) is a regional human rights grant-making organization, a non-profit that provides support for the promotion and realization of all human rights in the Arab region. “The way we support the various rights issues, including domestic violence against women is through the grants awarded by the Fund. As of November, 31% of our projects targeted women and around 33% addressed equality issues related to discrimination and equality”, Moustafa Mikaty, head of communication and development at AHRF tells us. Some of the NGOs AHRF aid include; The Social Care House for Women in Yemen, Psycho-Social Counselling Centre for Women in Palestine, Women’s Prison’s Watch in Baghdad & Mosul, Bahrain’s Women Association, and New Women’s Resource Centre in Egypt.