VIDEO: Egyptian women taking to streets to protest violent mistreatment

The Takeaway

On the streets of Cairo this week, women are protesting their mistreatment at the hands of Egyptian security forces.

Historians have labeled Tuesday’s protest the largest women-led protest in several generations. It came as images and video surfaced of Egyptian security forces stomping on, stripping and beating a protesting woman.

Noel King, a freelance journalists in Cairo, said the political debate in Egypt has primarily pitted Islamists against the military, but now women are saying they want their say as well.

“Women played a really important role in the country’s revolution in January and February,” King said. “They stood on the front lines. They helped organize the protests. After Hosni Mubarak was toppled, some of the mainstream political discourse circled around now is the time to fix the country politically, but not to worry about women’s rights.”

King said women’s rights were treated as a fringe issue and this week, but women said the mainstream parties better make room for them and their concerns.

The women’s rights issue in Egypt is usually driven by upper class and liberal thinkers, often a mostly secular group. And that’s what made it all the more surprising when this week’s protests, which some have estimated as including almost 10,000 women, included much more surprising groups, including women wearing veils, with babies and even the poor.

“These are not the typical women who march in the streets in Egypt, even during the revolution,” King said. “It’s the reason it surprised analysts, the reason it surprised historians.”

While the video footage certainly caused an uproar outside of Egypt and among certain circles in Egypt, King said because many in Egypt don’t have access to the Internet, a lot of those protesting had never even seen it.

“They came out because they seemed to understand this was a moment, a moment for them to march in the streets and to not feel unsafe,” King said.

So, while the video ignited the protest, King said, the protest itself spoke to something larger.

“Tomorrow there’s a call for renewed protests in Tahrir Square,” King said. “It, will be a big indicator of how strong the activists community is tomorrow morning and afternoon.”

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