The 2011 Egyptian revolution: a step forward For women? By Alaa Mahmoud, Mariam Elhouchy and Samar Ahmed

Dr. Nermin Allam is interested in answering questions related to “how power is exercised, contested and how it is reproduced in society.” She tackles these questions in the context of women’s experiences during the Egyptian Jan. 2011 Revolution. Photo credit: Alaa Mahmoud
There is a view that argues that “the Arab Spring had to happen; in fact, the Arab Spring was overdue.” - Professor Bahgat Korany. Photo credit: Alaa Mahmoud
“Impressionistic accounts by journalists, and by eye witnesses documented the extensive experience and the extensive participation of women in the uprising.” -Dr. Nermin Allam. Photo credit: Alaa Mahmoud
The attendees listening carefully as Dr. Allam analyzes factors explaining why female participants did not voice gender issues during the initial phase of the uprising. Photo credit: Alaa Mahmoud
Aseel Azab, one of the attendees, posing a question during a lively Q&A session. Photo credit: Alaa Mahmoud
Hye Seo Kim, a South Korean exchange student comparing the experiences of women in South Korea to those of Egyptian women in an interview after the lecture. Photo credit: Samar Ahmed

On Wednesday, March 29 at 1 p.m., a panel discussion entitled “Hope and Disappointment in Politics: Women and the Egyptian Uprising” took place in the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Hall on The American University in New Cairo campus. The main speaker, Nermin Allam, research council postdoctoral fellow visiting scholar at Princeton University, mainly talked about the role of women in the Arab Spring and the reasons why gender issues were never raised in the Jan. 2011 Revolution.

After a brief introduction from Professor Bahgat Korany, the moderator of the lecture, Allam began talking about her book which is still in its printing phase. In talking about the 2011 revolution, Allam says that “the extensive participation of women was significant but it was not surprising.” However, through her research, which is mainly formed of interviews with female professors, activists and public figures, Allam found that “female participants emphasized that they felt at that time that singling out women’s rights would harm the unity of the movement at large” and she adds that this view is not only present here, but common in history. She also said that in her interview with Tawakkol Karman, dubbed “The Mother of the Revolution” in her native land Yemen, Karman emphasized the significance of uniting demands.

This brought Allam to her central question: “Why female participants did not voice women’s issues during the initial phase of uprising?” Allam says that her analysis shows that female participants did not voice gender issues due to three main factors “the legacy or the supremacy of the national discourse in Egypt, state sponsored feminism, and the liminal culture of equality and solidarity that marked the initial phase of the uprising.”

The lecture seemed to resonate with many of the attendees, even those who came from different cultures. South Korean exchange student Hye Seo Kim said in an interview that certain “kinds of discriminations” and “just daily like, you know, harassment and then all those stuff are very rampant. Even though we never want to talk about it. So I, I can see the comparison here.” Dr. Nermin Allam’s book will be out next year with Cambridge Press.

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