11-10-2011By Marc Jayson Climaco
Program and Communications
Glamour Magazine honors Esraa Abdel Fattah as a “Woman of the Year” for her leadership in organizing the historic Tahrir Square movement in Egypt earlier this year.
During the protest in January, Esraa was active on the Internet, on the ground in Tahrir Square, and in the media—regularly updating the news on the opposition both on Twitter and television. She was dubbed “Facebook Girl” after the Mubarak regime arrested her in 2008 for organizing the April 6 Facebook Youth Movement—a mobilization of thousands of young Egyptians demanding political change. This movement eventually fueled the revolution that ended Mubarak’s reign on February 11.
Human Rights First has been working with Egyptian activists for years, and now we are supporting them as they build a new Egypt founded on human rights and the rule of law. Earlier this year, we brought Esraa to Washington D.C. to meet with U.S. officials and tech execs. She urged them to promote policies that protect internet freedom and shared her insights on how the United States can best support human rights in Egypt. She also met with McKinley High School students in Washington D.C. and shared her experience as a revolutionary figure in Egypt. Students asked Esraa questions about women’s rights in the Middle East and the extent of Islamic extremism in Egypt. They were very interested to learn how they could contribute to the democracy process in Egypt.
Watch ABC News coverage of Esraa’s visit:
Our work with Esraa is a good example of the partnerships we form with those on the frontlines of change in their own societies. Their lived experience and firsthand knowledge informs our advocacy, and we connect them directly to the corridors of power so their voices are heard in the policy debates that affect their cause.
Recently, we’ve raised concerns about the struggles of women in the Arab uprisings—a pattern of targeting politically active women has emerged. Human Rights First detailed in a testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Global Women’s Issues last week that ongoing gender violence and the harassment of female activists is a problem in transitioning nations.
In Egypt, for example, security forces continue to target women in ways similar to that of the old regime. Women activists from Egypt reported assaults and sexual abuses this year. In addition, Egyptian soldiers subjected women to virginity tests in Tahrir Square earlier this year and they threatened them prostitution charges if they failed the test. In Bahrain, female digital activists covering the protests are subject to organized online campaigns to discredit them for drinking alcohol or being promiscuous.
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley and Quinn O’Keefe are in Egypt this week to meet with women’s political groups and discuss the challenge of organizing a political freedom movement with so many complexities. We’ll be sharing their perspectives when we talk to policy makers in the United States.