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Arab awakening: What about women?

An attack in a liberated Egypt on a march for women's rights shows the challenge in carrying out complete revolutions in the region.

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Tuesday’s attack on Egyptian protesters demanding equal rights for women should serve as a warning in the ongoing Arab awakening. Women must be included, otherwise the democratic uprisings in the region will amount to only half-revolutions.

What happened to protesters in Tahrir Square on International Women’s Day is a microcosm of the women’s movement in the Middle East and North Africa generally:

A few hundred women and some men – not the “the million-woman march” hoped for – publicly voiced demands for inclusion in building a democratic Egypt. They were met by a counterprotest of men who attacked and groped them. “Go home, go wash clothes,” yelled some of the men, according to a Monitor story. “This is against Islam,” said others.

As elsewhere in the region, Egyptian women want to protect their recent gains, such as being allowed to divorce their husbands. But they also want protection from all-too-common sexual harassment and violence. And they want to be able to participate in a new parliament and in drafting a new constitution.


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