International Women’s Day (IWD).. is a day that the world celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, “ March 8th, was designated by UN to not just celebrate women rights, but to call for actions to improve women rights and gender parity. However, Arab and Muslim women who have a long history of struggle for their economic, legal and social rights, their stories mostly ignored.
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Selling Lingerie on the Egyptian Street
Cairo’s Tahrir Square is the global symbol of the January 25th Revolution, where millions of Egyptians, including women, went to demand the toppling of the regime. Lately, Tahrir Square has witnessed the courting of the Egyptian population by General Al Sisi and his propaganda machine as well as a “Million Woman March” demanding the toppling of the hijab.
The history of progressive women and their struggle for independence and social freedom is an old one, starting with the Egyptian feminist and activist, Huda El Sha’arwi, founder of the Egyptian Feminist Union in 1923. Two events stand out in the history of women’s struggle in Egypt. In the Egyptian Revolution of 1919, women demonstrated side by side with men and used their hijab as a symbol of resistance to the British occupation, and again in the 1940’s and early 50’s, when small groups of radical women leftists embraced the topics of inequality and nationalism with a strong anti-imperialist bent. Here is pamphlet published by the group that announced, “. . . struggle to realize democratic freedom for women in Egypt–that is the freedom which cannot arrive under the shadow of the imperialist and imperialism nor under the shadow of enslavement and exploitation.”
Egyptian women, who are again trying to gain the freedom to remove their hijab, need to “burn their bras” first, as their western counterparts did in the sexual revolution of the 60’s. Back in Tahrir Square, Egyptian women may not be exactly burning their bras anytime soon, but you can see them buying bras, lingerie and undergarments on the street. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see bras and lingerie displayed on every street corner and in the windows of shops, even on sidewalks in the slums of Cairo.
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