“I don’t believe our revolution will succeed until one day we will have a woman president. I don’t believe there can be a democracy unless women are properly in power,” she said in a speech at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Mass., yesterday.
Ziada’s work predates the Tahrir Square events by several years. She helped translate a comic book about Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous 1955 bus boycott in Alabama into Arabic. She helped organize human rights film festivals in Egypt, smuggling in films about the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine and about female genital circumcision. And through her Cairo-based organization, the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, she helped train activists and bloggers from across the region.
Since last year’s revolution, a grim reality has replaced heady optimism in many of the countries that were also convulsed by protests. Syria is mired in a brutal civil war. Yemen is still volatile, despite the ouster of its president. Tunisia is still tense, as society grapples with the question of how prominent a role Islam should play in civic life.
This is mirrored in Egypt’s own struggles, as the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party agitate for policies and legislation – such as child marriage and female genital circumcision – that, Ms. Ziada argues, are contrary to the ideals of last year’s protesters. Law enforcement and police agencies, who she said felt humiliated by the protests last year, have pushed for legislation that would make it easier for police to use deadly force against protesters. Among the myriad political parties that vied for parliament seats in last year’s election, many chafed at the idea that a woman should be listed at the top of the ticket on the ballots. The political party she helped found was no exception.