Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Street is Ours

Googling for the Reclaim the Night marches of the 1970s, I came across this:

Herstory of Reclaim the Night

Reclaim the Night marches and rallies have traditionally been organised by collectives of unpaid women...
It's good to see a rebuke for all those people who have been paid to organise rallies and marches. But let's not get sidetracked.

The Street is Ours is a campaign organised in Egypt:
2005 witnessed the first group and public sexual harassment of women on the street in an attempt to intimidate the Kefaya movement, its women and men, and terrify them away from demonstrating and demanding democracy.
In 2006 they took the initiative and a launched their second collective and public sexual harassment of women in more than one location turning the days of the feast into hell for every woman who happened to be on the street seeking to celebrate the holidays. This time the harassment was protected by the police who were present. Between both incidents there are thousands of daily stories of harassment
Every time we hear some voices who blame the women for being the cause of that harassment, either because of what they wear or how they behave or even just for being out there, in the public space; an attitude which betrays the belief that streets, cinemas, playgrounds, and public spaces are there for men only.

But that is not the attitude of all Egyptians. Among Egyptians are women and men who look upon each other as human beings entitled to respect and freedom. In Egypt there are women and men who will not give up their right to freedom of movement and to be wherever they wish to be. Women and men who love life and believe that its beauty is incomplete in the absence of half of society. Among Egyptians are women and men who do not look upon women as bodies exhibited for their use, nor upon men as creatures led by their instincts. There are women and men who deal with each other as human beings, with all the humanity, respect for the other and love for freedom that this entails.

We are some of those women. We shall not desert the street and we shall not resort to exile ourselves inside our homes.. The street belongs to us and to each and every free spirit in this country.
They announced a rally:
We call upon everybody, women and men, to gather in front of the Metro Theater (one of the locations where the harassments took place)
Tuesday 14 November, at 3 p.m.,
to express our solidarity with the victims of harassment
to make a statement that the street is ours.
Nobody will terrify us away. Nobody will isolate us in our country.
Guess what happened.
I’m receiving news that Police is cracking down on the Cinema Metro demo. Plainclothes security agents are dispersing protestors and people away.
Five people, I heard, have been arrested inluding activist Nadia Mabrouk, Waleed Salah, a student from the AUC named Dina, a foreign journalist and an unnamed protestor.
Read the liveblog here, complete with photographs of police harassement and arrests of some of the demonstrators.

There's not much we can do from this side of the world, except offer our best wishes and support for this movement.

But that's what I'm doing. Sometimes, foreign awareness of these events helps. Sometimes, it is decisive. Mahmood's Den has been unblocked, after a campaign I was also proud to support. Let's hope that by spreading the word, we can help the brave Egyptian human rights campaigners.

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