When I first arrived to Cairo, people asked me if I could see any changes, post-revolution. All I could answer was “no, I don’t see any visible changes, except a lot of revolution street art and people being more open about talking politics.” But, even these things existed before the revolution in a lesser capacity. However, yesterday I realized there are no real changes vis-a-vis this revolution except that Mubarak is gone (though his people and supporters are still here) and the Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to run for seats under their official name.
The protestors did not just one day decide they will go to Tahrir because they want to end corruption, create jobs, establish freedoms and justice, etc. They have always felt this way. These demands were not born on January 25th; protestors took the opportunity to put an end to Mubarak’s regime beginning that day. The success of the revolution depends on the majority of people believing in justice and freedom and changing their institutions–without violence.
Last night, I went to a local market with my friends and asked a young, female Egyptian seller what she thought about the Egyptian woman who was stripped and beaten in Tahrir just two days ago by the military police. She told us that she deserved it because she had no business going there. Wow, she just slapped me in my face. How can she believe that it was “her fault” because she is a “bad girl?” This is similar to blaming a rape victim, instead of the rapist. Why is it that we must find how who and what type of person he or she is before saying is such treatment is justified? If she is a prostitute or a “bad girl,” then it is okay for a woman to be beaten until unconscious? Or if she is not a virgin, it is okay to sexually assault or rape her. The virginity tests last March showed how some people justified sexually violating women if they are not virgins.
I do not care if she is a “good” or “bad” girl; no one deserves such inhumane treatment. Why must there be a reason to act humanely or inhumanely? The bewab (doorman) of my building said that she should not have beaten like that because since “maybe her husband needed to work and she went to replace the man at Tahrir.” When did protesting against injustice and freedom become a “man’s thing?” And why do we need to profile women to justify what treatment they should get? (It sounds odd to say, but thank God she was wearing a hijab, otherwise, it would have been “justified” to beat her.) And if we want to use the “modesty argument,” are not women here supposed to be “protected” especially if they are wearing hijab? So what is the reason for why she was stripped and beaten until unconscious? Was she threatening the military’s “power?” An Egyptian male argued how we do not know why the military beat her and gave the excuse that maybe she was burning and destroying buildings. He claimed, if men and women deserve equal rights, then she was beaten how men have been beaten. If she was a so-called “criminal,” you can arrest her and put her on trial. This is all part of justice. But no, the military police do not care about justice or treating women with the respect and rights they deserve, especially when they and their supporters are the very people who use religion to argue women must cover to protect their “modesty.” That was some protection. It is ironic that the State and supporters of this violence against women believe that the State will protect “women” when clearly, that is not happening.
Back to change. Nothing will change in this country if the majority of people continue to blame the victim. Nothing will change if people profile women as “bad or good girls” to justify what treatment they deserve. This is not justice. An Egyptian male talked about how there are “foreign elements” that are ruining any progress this country is making. There are no “foreign elements” except the military police that are acting like the real thugs. The military police justifies their abuse of power by arguing they are securing the country and protecting the people from thugs (who are burning and destroying buildings). I agree that violence is not the solution to any problem. SCAF is practicing brutal violence against innocent people and it must be ended. And people need to stop making excuses so that responsibility falls on “outside elements,” but acknowledge that maybe there is something very wrong with the country’s military police that needs to be addressed.
Change will not happen now or in a few years. Change will not happen through institutions or political systems. Change will happen when there is a change in people’s mind-sets.
Link to video of woman in Tahrir being beaten by military police on December 17, 2011. http://youtu.be/4iboFV-yeTE