// Equal Rights Takes to the Barricades
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« on: Feb 04, 2011 09:10 AM »


Interesting article about the woman who started it all..........

Equal Rights Takes to the Barricades



CAIRO — People here are not afraid anymore — and it just may be that a woman helped break that barrier of fear.

Asmaa Mahfouz was celebrating her 26th birthday on Tuesday among tens of thousands of Egyptians as they took to the streets, parting with old fears in a bid to end President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of authoritarian, single-party rule.

“As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go down and take a stance, then there will be hope.”

That was what Ms. Mahfouz had to say in a video she posted online more than two weeks ago. She spoke straight to the camera and held a sign saying she would go out and protest to try to bring down Mr. Mubarak’s regime.

This was certainly not the first time a young activist used the Internet — later virtually shut down by the government — as a tool to organize and mobilize, but it departed from the convenient, familiar anonymity of online activism.

More than that, it was a woman who dared put a face to the message, unfazed by the possibility of arrest for her defiance. “Do not be afraid,” she said.

Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the vlog that Helped Spark the Revolution


When Ms. Mahfouz posted this bold video, she said she worried about the reaction that it might generate in a society that expected women to behave in a more subdued and reserved manner.

“I felt that doing this video may be too big a step for me, but then I thought: For how much longer will I continue to be afraid and hesitant? I had to do something,” Ms. Mahfouz said.

To her surprise, dozens of other people picked up on the spirit of her message and started to post their own pictures, holding similar signs to their chests that declared their intent to take to the streets on Jan. 25 — last Friday — in what turned out to be a momentous national day of rage.

Ms. Mahfouz is one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, a group of young, Internet-savvy activists who have been credited with a leading role in organizing the mass protests that now pose an unprecedented challenge to Mr. Mubarak’s monopoly over power.

Her main role within the group is to help shape its public message and reach out to what the group sees as the silent majority of youth in the country. She uses Facebook and Twitter as convenient methods for organizing and disseminating messages but finds that talking to people face to face is the best way to motivate them.

This, she said, is what inspired her to do the video. She wanted people to be able to see her, and she wanted to reach as many people as possible.

“It worked,” said Amr Ezz, 27, a friend of Ms. Mahfouz and one of the other founders of the youth group. Mr. Ezz said that they had been calling on people to join the protests through the usual methods, by posting anonymous written messages online and distributing fliers in the street. But Ms. Mahfouz introduced what Mr. Ezz called “visual blogging.”

“She got in front of the camera and said what she wanted with a daring and enthusiastic attitude that encouraged people,” he said.

Mr. Ezz also noted that her video motivated men even more than it motivated other women. “The fact that a woman was able to do this made the men feel challenged, and they wanted to do the same.”

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have now turned out in protest — mass demonstrations that followed the popular Tunisian uprising that forced President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to leave his country.

In Egypt, as earlier in Tunisia, protesters braved the uninhibited use of force by police. The demonstrations built up to last week’s “angry Friday” and the “march of millions” on Tuesday.

The feeling now on the street in Egypt is one of empowerment, and it has taken all of society by storm — both men and women, whose public role in Egypt has traditionally been more circumscribed than in Tunisia.

“Female participation is at an equal standing — just like male participation — and female demonstrators are not shying away from marching despite the tear gas,” noted Amr Hamzawy, a research director at the Carnegie Middle East Center who has spent most of the last week in central Cairo, where demonstrators have converged. “It’s very impressive,” he said. “It’s not about male and female, it’s about everyone.”

In one scene in recent days, Mariam Soliman, a 28-year-old school counselor, led a group of men and women down a street as they gradually became surrounded by truckloads of riot police officers.

Ms. Soliman led the chant. “Down, down with Mubarak!” she yelled as loudly as she could, often adding adjectives to the name of the president that are not fit for print.

It was a charged picture, with Ms. Soliman playing a role that many women in Egypt would avoid — or delegate to a man. Not this woman.

“At least I’ll die defending my rights,” she said. “I am not socialist, I am not a liberal, I am not an Islamist. I am an Egyptian woman, a regular woman rejecting injustice and corruption in my country.”

“Women have to go down and participate and demand their rights, or is it going to be the men who fight for our rights?” Ms. Soliman explained.

Although it is still overwhelmingly men demonstrating, there is a new quality to the way Egyptians walk the streets now.

“Everyone used to say there is no hope, that no one will turn up on the street, that the people are passive,” Ms. Mahfouz said. “But the barrier of fear was broken!”
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« Reply #1 on: Feb 04, 2011 04:56 PM »

http://chedet.co.cc/chedetblog/2011/02/the-domino-effect.html#more

1. It looks like the Arab countries are experiencing some kind of revolution. Apparently the people are not happy with the leadership of their largely authoritarian Governments. Equally obviously they want a change of Governments or the leaders.

2. The revolution has succeeded in Tunisia. Now we are seeing upheavals in Egypt.

3. Should these revolutions succeed there would be new Governments. But it is worthwhile to remember that change is not always for the better. It is incumbent upon those bent on effecting change to have some idea about the kind of Governments they want. Otherwise they may get the same kind of Governments that they try so hard to be rid off. This is because most leaders upon achieving power would change and would forget the struggles and sacrifices which enabled them to be in power. Power corrupts as we all know.

4. Perhaps in order to avoid a new dictatorship from emerging, democracy would be chosen. A democratic leader can be changed merely through voting.

5. But the system can be abused. Either the elected leader would fix elections to perpetuate his office or there would be a series of ineffective Governments as the people reject each one with their votes. This will cause instability. The country would be no better.

6. To avoid this the electorate must not allow themselves to be manipulated. They must exercise their voting rights judiciously. But this would be something new to them and they may not be skilled enough in exercising their power to choose.

7. I will not presume to know all the needs of the countries concerned, much less to provide solutions.

8. Whatever, the new Governments must never forget the people who so courageously rose against the previous Governments. They had done so because they expect a better Government which will care for the people. I am told that high unemployment rate is one of the major causes. This problem must be given priority or the same fate will be met by the new Government. This will require better management of the economy, in particular the creation of more jobs.

9. Corruption in the administration must be reduced. Drastic measures will be needed. For this the most important thing is for the new ruling elites, particularly the leader, however chosen to demonstrate that they are not corrupt.

10. The skills in administration must be upgraded so that Government would be able to deliver on promises of better governance.

11. I feel sad that not a single Muslim country is classified as developed. Almost invariably it is due to Government incompetence. We see some hope in the progress made by Turkey. But even Turkey is far from being a developed country.

12. There will be some Muslims who will say that being developed is not important to Islam. What is important is to be Islamic according to their interpretation of the teachings of Islam.

13. This is fallacious. We know that the reason for the oppression of Muslim countries and discrimination against Muslims that we see today is because they are underdeveloped and weak. They are labeled as terrorists. They have no capacity to protect themselves. They are forever dependent on aid, usually by the powerful countries. And when powerful countries give aid, it is not free. They have to toe the line determined by the donors.

14. Does Islam teach us to be weak and poor, to be beggars incapable of defending ourselves? Certainly not. Therefore in striving to become a developed country we are not going against the teachings of Islam. Indeed what we will be doing is to restore the good image of Islam and to counter the propaganda that Islam is the cause of the poverty and incompetence of Muslims. To defend Islam and the Muslims, to regain respect for the religion cannot be against the teachings of Islam.

15. I hope and pray that those who replace the displaced Governments will govern their countries well and much good will come from the sacrifices made by the demonstrators.
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