Just came across this a few months later… Just as relevant as ever. If you do nothing else, see Asmaa’s video clip.
Originally posted on Cellar Door:
We are, each of us, functions of how we imagine ourselves and of how others imagine us, and, looking back, there are these discrete tracks of memory: the times when our lives are most sharply defined in relation to others’ ideas of us, and the more private times when we are freer to imagine ourselves. [...] it occurred to me that if others have so often made your life their business — made your life into a question, really, and made that question their business — then perhaps you will want to guard the memory of those times when you were freer to imagine yourself as the only times that are truly and inviolably your own.
— We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch
The passage above from Philip Gourevitch’s gorgeously written book about the 1994 Rwandan genocide, struck me as a particularly true framing of the story of the woman who was stripped and assaulted in Tahrir Square over a month ago. She has chosen to remain private about her identity even as images of her trauma has become a global icon — adding to a dramatically changing iconography of what it means to be a Muslim woman fighting and resisting.
By now, the image of the Egyptian “woman in the blue bra”, being stripped, dragged, and kicked by soldiers is probably seared onto your retinas. It is on mine. Few images of women protesting for their rights have ever sparked that degree of coverage. I’m not exactly sure if the prurient aspect of her bra being revealed is the reason, or her presumed humiliation for being undressed that way… After all, women are often humiliated, with no international consequences.
I also wonder why three weeks of protests against the military government, and then escalation to violence where many women and men were beaten, shocked, and humiliated, and at least 10 people were killed (10 at that point; the number is now at least 17) – didn’t evoke a particular response.
Either way, what was astounding and wonderful in my eyes, beyond the recognition of the brutality and the reason for it – this brave woman standing up for her freedom – is the tremendous wave of protests by women in Egypt in response. For almost a week now, thousands and thousands of women are taking to the streets, saying – we are drawing a red line, and you may no longer cross it! (View video)
And in the spirit of the Tahrir, here are some other women’s protests from around the world this past week:
Late edit: I am happy to report that women were everywhere this week, so this is far from comprehensive. Let’s call it a very significant sample.
Belarus December 19
The Ukrainian feminist group Femen organized a protest in Minsk against Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko. In addition to commemorating the brutal shut-down of the protest of his fraudulent re-election last year, Femen protests sex trafficking carried out via Belarus. Protesters were teargassed, beaten, and many were arrested. Three of the protesters have reported that they were taken by the KGB, blindfolded, stripped, doused with gasoline and threatened with immolation. The KGB agents then beat them, cut their hair, took their money, clothes, and passports, and left them in the woods, 120 miles from Minsk. In addition, at least a dozen reporters were detained, including Australian reporter Kitty Green, and several Belarusian reporters. Though no charges were filed, the reporters were fingerprinted and interrogated, and the photos on their cameras were erased. In that spirit — view a photo album of the protest.
Yemen December 20
A women’s march in Yemen on Tuesday
Bahrain December 15-17
Bahraini women occupy a roundabout on December 15 — simply sitting there, asserting their right to be. Nevertheless, authorities violently removed the women, and beat and arrested activists Zainab AlKhawaja (shown above) and Fathiya Abduali. On December 17, the third day of anti-government protests, protesters react to tear gas fired by riot police.