Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Egypt: Women of the Revolutio9n
Political activist Gigi Ibrahim played an instrumental role in spreading the word about the protests.
"I started [my political activism] by just talking to people [who were] involved [in the labour movement]. Then I became more active and the whole thing became addictive. I went to meetings and took part in protests. I learned very quickly that most of the strikes in the labour movement were started by women.
In my experience women play a pivotal role in all protests and strikes. Whenever violence erupts, the women would step up and fight the police, and they would be beaten just as much as the men.
I have seen it during the Khaled Said protests in June 2010 when many women were beaten and arrested. Muslim, Christian - all types of women protested.
My family always had problems with me taking part in protests. They prevented me from going for my safety because I am a girl. They were worried about the risks. I would have to lie about attending protests.
When the police violently cleared the square on January 25, I was shot in the back by a rubber bullet while trying to run away from the police as they tear gassed us. I returned to the square, as did many others, the following day and stayed there on and off for the next 18 days.
As things escalated my dad got increasingly worried. On January 28, my sister wanted to lock me in the house. They tried to stop me from leaving, but I was determined and I went out. I moved to my aunt's place that is closer to Tahrir Square and I would go there every now and again to wash and rest before returning to the square.
At first my family was very worried, but as things escalated they started to understand and to be more supportive. My family is not politically active at all.
The day-to-day conditions were not easy. Most of us would use the bathroom inside the nearby mosque. Others would go to nearby flats where people kindly opened their homes for people to use.
"[When the pro-Mubarak thugs attacked us] we were unarmed, we had nothing. That night I felt fear but it changed into determination"
I was in Tahrir Square on February 2, when pro-Mubarak thugs attacked us with petrol bombs and rocks. That was the most horrific night. I was trapped in the middle of the square. The outskirts of the square were like a war zone. The more things escalated the more determined we became not to stop. Many people were injured and many died and that pushed us to go on and not give up.
I thought if those armed pro-Mubarak thugs came inside the square it would be the end of us. We were unarmed, we had nothing. That night I felt fear but it changed into determination.
The women played an important role that night. Because we were outnumbered, we had to secure all the exits in the square. The exits between each end of the square would take up to 10 minutes to reach, so the women would go and alert others about where the danger was coming from and make sure that the people who were battling swapped positions with others so that they could rest before going out into the battle again.
The women were also taking care of the wounded in makeshift clinics in the square. Some women were on the front line throwing rocks with the men. I was on the front line documenting the battle with my camera. It was like nothing that I have ever seen or experienced before.
During the 18 days neither I nor any of my friends were harassed. I slept in Tahrir with five men around me that I didn't know and I was safe.
But that changed on the day Mubarak stepped down. The type of people who came then were not interested in the revolution. They were there to take pictures. They came for the carnival atmosphere and that was when things started to change.
When the announcement came we all erupted in joy. I was screaming and crying. I hugged everyone around me. I went from being happy and crying to complete shock. It took a while for it to sink in.
The revolution is not over. All of our demands have not yet been met. We have to continue. This is where the real hard work begins, but it will take a different shape than staging sit-ins in the square. Rebuilding Egypt is going to be tough and we all have to take part in this. There are organised strikes demanding workers’ rights for better pay and conditions and those are the battles to be won now."
Salma El Tarzi, 33, filmmaker
What kept us going was the conviction that we did not have any option - it was either freedom or go to jail