Standing in Solidarity with Egyptian Victims of Sexual Violence
From occurrences of sexual harassment to incidents of gang rape, female pro-democracy demonstrators at Cairo's Tahrir Square face immense personal risk.
In the demonstrations marking the second anniversary of the revolution in Egypt, 25 female demonstrators were sexually attacked or raped. Following the violence, a Salafi preacher attempted to justify the attacks against the activists. Enraged, the women put out a global call to action.
Earlier this month, 80 Palestinian Israeli women and men demonstrated in solidarity with Egyptian victims of sexual violence. The SHATIL-coordinated Women in the Center Forum, together with national Israeli-Palestinian women's organizations, initiated and organized the solidarity demonstration in Jaffa's central square under the famous clock tower. The demonstrators expressed opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood's domination, and also expressed support of egalitarian legislation that reflects the interests of Egypt's women.
"Our Women in the Center Forum takes seriously the oppression of women – whether in Jaffa, Lod, Ramle, or around the world -- and it's important for us to take a stand," says Joumana Salem, coordinator of SHATIL's Women in the Center Forum. "Arab women everywhere look up to Egyptian women who came out to protest as a model. It was our initiative that the demonstration be in Jaffa as part of our goal to encourage local women's activism and to get women activists from around the country to come to Jaffa."
Women in the Center, which includes the Jaffa Women's Forum and the Lod-Ramle Women's Forum, was established last year by SHATIL to address the lack of Palestinian Israeli women's activism in the center of the country. This gap was especially significant because women in the center suffer from high rates of juvenile marriage, high school drop out, domestic violence, polygamy, and "honor killings." The Forum is working to create a space for belonging, partnership, and support for the women; to cultivate local women's leadership to advance social and political change; and to create a pressure group to promote action on issues related to women.