Renowned TV satirist Bassem Youssef arrived at Egypt’s High Court on Sunday morning in response to an arrest warrant submitted by the country’s top prosecutor.
Youssef turned up at the court wearing an outsized version of the hat worn by President Morsi when he received an honorary doctorate from a university in Pakistan in early March.
The prosecutor-general ordered Youssef’s arrest on Saturday after a number of complaints were made against him for allegedly insulting President Mohamed Morsi, denigrating Islam and spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order.
During a phone interview with popular TV anchor Lamees El-Hadidy on Saturday night, Bassem Youssef rejected the accusation that he had insulted Islam.
“We are not the ones who insult religion, all we do is expose the channels that have misused religion and harmed it more than anyone else. If there is anyone who has insulted religion it is those who use Islam as a weapon for political reasons,” he said, adding that he is determined defy those who “have disfigured my religion [of Islam].”
When asked by El-Hadidy if he had insulted the president, Youssef said, “President Mohamed Morsi? How can anyone insult him, he is the first elected president.”
TV satirist Bassem Youssef also complained that he was not officially summoned for questioning before he received an arrest warrant on Saturday and that this is against legal procedures.
“I was never called for a hearing before [the arrest warrant] was issued, which is the legal norm, and we were surprised to hear the news via the media,” Youssef said via Facebook on Saturday, adding that he would go to the prosecutor-general’s office on Sunday at 9:30am.
Youssef hosts weekly satire show El-Bernameg (The Show) on private satellite channel CBC.
The complaints were filed by 12 people after Youssef’s 1 March episode in which he mocked the president’s interview with TV anchor Amr El-Leithy in February.
In January, a number of Islamist lawyers filed a separate lawsuit against Youssef for “undermining the standing of the president” during his show but the charges were dropped before the case reached court.
Youssef said he would make himself available to the office of the prosecutor-general on Sunday.
Dozens of supporters of Bassem Youssef rallied outside the office of the prosecutor-general in solidarity with the renowned satirist.
The term has served as a legal code for racism. Today, historian Doris Weatherford writes that state lawmakers have also long imposed legal restrictions on U.S. women. Now it’s the framework for the shrinkage of access to reproductive health care and medical privacy.
(WOMENSENEWS)–Throughout U.S. history, “states’ rights” was a convenient code for racism.
Conservative politicians railed that legal changes in favor of African Americans were a violation of “states’ rights.” Southerners especially contended that their state legislatures had a right to laws that discriminated against people born with the wrong skin color.
Yet rarely is the phrase states’ rights seen also as a code to legitimize the violation of women’s rights, even though every woman gains or loses the right to make decisions about her own body when she crosses state lines.
Just last week, North Dakota lawmakers banned the termination of pregnancies that are beyond six weeks–when a woman barely knows whether or not she has missed her period.
Because men cannot get pregnant, such laws do not apply to them, and the conflict between women’s rights and states’ rights continues.
The legal point should have been resolved by the 14th and 15th Amendments in the 1860s, but a century passed before the majority of Americans agreed that the federal government should overrule racially discriminatory state laws. A hundred years after the Civil War ended in 1865, nonwhites finally saw the promise of true liberty with the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act.
While almost everyone today sees states’ rights as an antiqued philosophy, astonishingly few see that it also is key to understanding women’s rights. Historians don’t teach it that way, and so this vast aspect of U.S. history goes unacknowledged.
From the nation’s beginning, though, statehood meant a step backwards for most women. In the colonial era of the 1600s, women freely went to court and argued their own cases. But under new state governments, many women lost their right to sue.
In most states, a married woman literally had no rights. She could not file for divorce; only her husband could do that–and he rarely had any incentive to do so, as her inherited property became his. Even her earned income legally was his.
States also gave automatic child custody to fathers, another huge disincentive for divorce. Fathers could name someone other than the mother in their wills as custodians for children, empowering an outsider with decision-making authority for a child’s education or even residence.
Nor did staying unmarried entitle a woman to full citizenship, even while she was compelled to pay full taxes.
For decades, women protested against this violation of the principle of “no taxation without representation.” Lucy Stone allowed a New Jersey sheriff to sell her personal goods rather than pay taxes to a government that did not represent her, and other women did likewise.
In Connecticut, sisters Julia and Abby Smith refused to pay taxes on their Gastonbury farm because they could not vote. The court sold their cattle to a male neighbor and newspapers treated “the Gastonbury Cows” as laughable cartoon material.
Women always assumed that they had the right to petition, however, and after feminists organized petition drives in the 1850s, Northern legislatures began to change property laws. Southern states lagged, and in 20th century Louisiana, even a woman’s clothes legally belonged to her husband; she was not free to sell them.
State law also refused to recognize a woman as a witness. A New Orleans orphanage lost the bequest that a donor intended because only women had signed the document testifying to her intentions. Had those women brought an illiterate male janitor into the room to make his mark, the will would have been upheld.
Far into the 20th century, states routinely excluded women from tax-supported colleges and universities, especially law and medical schools. A Michigan woman had to go to court for the right to tend a bar, as state law forbade female bartenders. As late as 1972, Idaho gave men automatic status as executors of family estates; in Reed v. Reed, a woman had to go to the Supreme Court to be allowed to substitute for her mentally incompetent brother. Inheritance law in many farm states gave sons more power than widows who built the farm.
Female Jurors Forbidden
Most states long excluded women from juries, meaning that a female defendant was not tried by her peers–and imposing a real discouragement on female witnesses and lawyers. In 1961, The U.S. Supreme Courtupheld state law in Hoyt v. Florida, ruling that automatic exemption of women from jury lists was constitutional. Eighteen other states had similar laws that allowed women to serve, but only if they took special steps to volunteer. At least three states at the time barred women completely.
Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) often is cited today as the bulwark of personal privacy–something that conservatives claim to value–but the case really was about women, and specifically their right to birth control. Connecticut, with its large Catholic population, banned the sale of contraceptives, but after the married Estelle Griswold had the courage to pursue the case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state law.
Massachusetts lawmakers tried to get around the ruling by restricting sales to individuals who could prove they were married, but in Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), the Supreme Court allowed contraceptive purchase without regard to marital status.
Would state legislatures today approve laws that require nonwhites to give up the right to eat in public restaurants based on state borders? Would any man surrender any right because he moved from South toNorth Dakota?
That is the framework in which these important decisions should be made. And just as in the past, states’ rights is a code for fascism and legal terrorism, and for keeping the victim in her place.
Doris Weatherford is the author of a dozen books on American women. Her most recent work, “Women in American Politics: History and Milestones,” won a prize from the American Library Association as a 2013 Outstanding Reference Source.
The International Women’s Health Coalition and our amazing partners from around the world came out in force to the UN for the negotiations. Our agenda was clear: push governments to commit to concrete strategies to empower women and girls and end gender-based violence. We would not be silenced. We would not be denied our rights.
We met with instant opposition from conservative governments. Countries such as Iran, Russia, Egypt, and Syria joined with the Vatican to use culture and religion as arguments to deny women their rights. But there can be no excuse to justify violence against women. Consensus was finally reached to loud applause from supportive governments such as the U.S., South Africa, Uruguay, Argentina, Turkey, the Philippines, Norway, Denmark, and even the small island of Tonga! As the document was adopted, hundreds of women’s rights activists streamed into the negotiating room to join in the cheers.
The Commission has released 17 pages of agreed conclusions, which build on the global momentum of the past 20 years and represent an important step forward for women and girls. For the first time at the UN, governments reached consensus that survivors of rape are entitled to emergency contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and to timely and respectful forensic exams to support prosecution. They called for an end to child marriages. They agreed women’s right to control their sexuality is essential to preventing further violence. And they recognized the role that evidence-based sexuality education can play in reducing the harmful gender stereotypes that lead to violence.
Once again, we women have shown we’re an irresistible force. But our work is far from over. Now we must be vigilant to ensure that the agreements made at the UN are put into practice in local communities worldwide. For that to happen, women’s groups must be supported to hold their own leaders to account.
The draft text, due to be issued by the UN Commission on the Status of Women today, calls for the “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”.
The Brotherhood contests provisions on sexual abuse, sexual rights, sexual health and the right of women to control their sexuality. Specifically, it opposes provisions calling for equal inheritance rights, equality within the family, raising the legal age for marriage and granting permission for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.
The movement also objects to permitting Muslim women to travel, work and use contraception without the approval of male relatives. It argues the document is “deceitful” because it would give women the choice of abortion “under the guise of sexual and reproductive rights”.
Adoption of the document would “lead to social disintegration”, the Brotherhood claims. It said in a statement: “The Muslim Brotherhood calls on leaders of Islamic countries, their foreign ministers and representatives in the Un ited Nations to reject and condemn this document.”
Since it rules Egypt, the most populous Arab country, the Brotherhood wields considerable influence with Muslim governments. On the issue of women’s rights, it has also secured the backing of Russia, Poland and the Vatican.
On the issues of sexual freedom, abortion and homosexuality, conservative Muslims and Christians have made common cause for years.
Sexual harassment, rape and assaults against women have increased in Egypt since the fall of president Hosni Mubarak two years ago, prompting criticism of presidentMohamed Morsi and his government for failing to tackle the phenomenon.
Women’s groups contend attacks during demonstrations against Brotherhood policies are being carried out with the aim of ending women’s participation. At least 29 assaults by gangs of men were reported on January 25th, during a rally in Cairo marking the anniversary of the 2011 uprising.
A World Bank report said that up to 70 per cent of women suffer violence in their lifetime, and that women aged 15-44 are “more at risk from domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria”.
The most common form of violence committed against women is physical abuse including beatings and rape by a partner.
A secular Egyptian woman outlines the disappointments written into the country’s new constitution, passed in late December. Women have had only one legal advance since the revolution: prosecuting sex harassment.
(WOMENSENEWS)–Egypt’s new constitution leaves Dooa Abdallah feeling left out.
“I don’t see myself as an Egyptian citizen in this constitution. I don’t see my future in this constitution,” she said.
Abdallah voted against the proposed constitution and now says it must not be left in its current version. It won’t be easy to change, she says, but she hopes to see the text challenged through “legal ways and on the streets.”
Like many Egyptian critics of the ruling Islamist party, she says the new constitution drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood was too rushed and resulted in a document that neither represents Egyptian society nor challenges the status quo that gripped the country for decades under former-President Hosni Mubarak.
“The text should be reflecting the notions of equality and freedom, but the constitution is now only reflecting the conservative philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood . . . If we keep the same economic system, if we keep the same political system, if we don’t give people their rights, why then was there a revolution and people lost their lives?” she asked.
The Egyptian constitution drafted by the Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was approved by a two-round referendum on Dec. 22 and signed into law by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi a few days later. The final text removed a clause that specifically guaranteed equality for women in the country and refers only to citizens, saying they are “equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination.”
Confirmed to Family Sphere
The approved constitution states that honoring women is essential to a dignified nation. However, the text only refers to women as sisters and mothers, speaking of them purely within the framework of family and not offering room for women in the political and societal spheres.
Article 10, which states that family is the basis of society, and is founded on religion, ethics (morality) and patriotism, says the state will provide mother and child services for free and guarantees women access to health, social, economic care, inheritance rights and harmony between her family duties and public life.
Abdallah said that the Arabic version of the constitution is full of contradictions regarding the notion of equality and freedom, which are emphasized in the English version.
For example in the Arabic version, article 43 guarantees freedom of belief and article 45 guarantees freedom of thought and opinion, but article 44 prohibits insulting prophets. This blasphemy clause is inherently contradictory to the rights guaranteed by its adjacent articles, important to the secularists.
Article 44 has sparked concern as the number of trials for blasphemy has been on the rise in Egypt over the last few months.
Abdallah said the constitution is also dangerous because it maintains the right of military courts to judge civilians and the misuse of Islamic laws. When religion enters into the political sphere, she said, “you can easily manipulate people and that’s why it’s important to remove the religious dimension from the formula. That’s not the duty of the government to tell us how to worship God or how to pray.”
“I have seen in many places around the world where Islam and religion are being used to abuse women and minorities’ rights,” she added.
A Significant Gain
But while the constitution has spread widespread disappointment, women do have one significant legal gain to celebrate. Since the revolution, Egyptian women have begun daring to bring cases of sexual harassment to court.
Samira Ibrahim paved the way after soldiers detained her on March 2011 and subjected her and other female protesters to forced “virginity tests” for protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against Mubarak’s regime. The 25-year-old marketing manager sued the military, and last year a civilian judge ruled the humiliating practice illegal. However, in March, a military tribunal acquitted the doctor who allegedly performed the “virginity tests.” Ibrahim has sworn to pursue the case using international law.
On Nov. 13, an Egyptian man was sentenced to two years in prison and fined a further 2,000 Egyptian pound ($328) for sexually assaulting a woman in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, in July of last year. The verdict was seen as a small victory for women.
Harassment of women is legendary in Egypt, but silence has been the rule as women feared to bring “dishonor” and “shame” upon their families. With the revolution, the underreported phenomenon has come under the international spotlight as women, including many foreign female reporters, were sexually attacked in Tahrir Square.
The National Council of Women Chief Mervat Tallawy said recently that Egyptian women are harassed on average seven times every 200 meters (656 feet).
Hajer Naili is a New-York based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.
Three weeks ago, the prime minister of India appointed Syed Asif Ibrahim as the new director of India’s Intelligence Bureau, its domestic intelligence-gathering agency. Ibrahim is a Muslim. India is a predominantly Hindu country, but it is also the world’s third-largest Muslim nation. India’s greatest security threat today comes from violent Muslim extremists. For India to appoint a Muslim to be the chief of the country’s intelligence service is a big, big deal. But it’s also part of an evolution of empowering minorities. India’s prime minister and its army chief of staff today are both Sikhs, and India’s foreign minister and chief justice of the Supreme Court are both Muslims. It would be like Egypt appointing a Coptic Christian to be its army chief of staff.
“Preposterous,” you say.
Well, yes, that’s true today. But if it is still true in a decade or two, then we’ll know that democracy in Egypt failed. We will know that Egypt went the route of Pakistan and not India. That is, rather than becoming a democratic country where its citizens could realize their full potential, instead it became a Muslim country where the military and the Muslim Brotherhood fed off each other so both could remain in power indefinitely and “the people” were again spectators. Whether Egypt turns out more like Pakistan or India will impact the future of democracy in the whole Arab world.
Sure, India still has its governance problems and its Muslims still face discrimination. Nevertheless, “democracy matters,” argues Tufail Ahmad, the Indian Muslim who directsthe South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, because “it is democracy in India that has, over six decades, gradually broken down primordial barriers — such as caste, tribe and religion — and in doing so opened the way for all different sectors of Indian society to rise through their own merits, which is exactly what Ibrahim did.”
And it is six decades of tyranny in Egypt that has left it a deeply divided country, where large segments do not know or trust one another, and where conspiracy theories abound. All of Egypt today needs to go on a weekend retreat with a facilitator and reflect on one question: How did India, another former British colony, get to be the way it is (Hindu culture aside)?
The first answer is time. India has had decades of operating democracy, and, before independence, struggling for democracy. Egypt has had less than two years. Egypt’s political terrain was frozen and monopolized for decades — the same decades that political leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh “were building an exceptionally diverse, cacophonous, but impressively flexible and accommodating system,” notes the Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond, the author of “The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World.”
Also, the dominant political party in India when it overthrew its colonial overlord “was probably the most multiethnic, inclusive and democratically minded political party to fight for independence in any 20th-century colony — the Indian National Congress,” said Diamond. While the dominant party when Egypt overthrew Hosni Mubarak’s tyranny, the Muslim Brotherhood, “was a religiously exclusivist party with deeply authoritarian roots that had only recently been evolving toward something more open and pluralistic.”
Moreover, adds Diamond, compare the philosophies and political heirs of Mahatma Gandhi and Sayyid Qutb, the guiding light of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Nehru was not a saint, but he sought to preserve a spirit of tolerance and consensus, and to respect the rules,” notes Diamond. He also prized education. By contrast, added Diamond, “the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood leaders, who have been in the driver’s seat since Egypt started moving toward elections, have driven away the moderates from within their party, seized emergency powers, beaten their rivals in the streets, and now are seeking to ram a constitution that lacks consensus down the throats of a large segment of Egyptian society that feels excluded and aggrieved.”
Then there is the military. Unlike in Pakistan, India’s postindependence leaders separated the military from politics. Unfortunately, in Egypt after the 1952 coup, Gamel Abdel Nasser brought the military into politics and all of his successors, right up to Mubarak, kept it there and were sustained by both the military and its intelligence services. Once Mubarak fell, and the new Brotherhood leaders pushed the army back to its barracks, Egypt’s generals clearly felt that they had to cut a deal to protect the huge web of economic interests they had built. “Their deep complicity in the old order led them to be compromised by the new order,” said Diamond. “Now they are not able to act as a restraining influence.”
Yes, democracy matters. But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood needs to understand that democracy is so much more than just winning an election. It is nurturing a culture of inclusion, and of peaceful dialogue, where respect for leaders is earned by surprising opponents with compromises rather than dictates. The Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen has long argued that it was India’s civilizational history of dialogue and argumentation that disposed it well to the formal institutions of democracy. More than anything, Egypt now needs to develop that kind of culture of dialogue, of peaceful and respectful arguing — it was totally suppressed under Mubarak — rather than rock-throwing, boycotting, conspiracy-mongering and waiting for America to denounce one side or the other, which has characterized too much of the postrevolutionary political scene. Elections without that culture are like a computer without software. It just doesn’t work.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the acclaimed Iranian director who has left an indelible stamp in global cinema, has a very simple philosophy towards filmmaking – change the world.
Never known to mince words or being diplomatic either in films or in real life, Makhmalbaf, clad in his trademark black shirt and black trousers and accompanied by his wife Marziyeh Meshkini, a filmmaker of repute in her own right, spoke about his films, the Iranian society, democracy and the need for a change in civilization. He was in the city on Saturday as part of the Kochi International Film Festival set to get underway here on Sunday.
“When I see so much poverty around me how can I make films about poetry,” Mr. Makhmalbaf quipped with innate honesty when asked about the extreme realism in his movie sometimes at the cost of the aesthetics of the medium of cinema. That is why he felt compelled to make his much celebrated film ‘Kandahar’ that told the horrors of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Calling himself a “little entertainer”, he said that the emphasis is on giving a valid message for the audience to ponder over when they come out of the movie house.
Thrown behind the bars at the age of 17 for opposing the repressive regime of the Shah, he said that the courage to stand up to dictatorship and injustice evolved during the five years he spent in prison during which he read about 2,000 books of all hues.
Mr. Makhmalbaf, however, was quick to add that he is not a one dimensional filmmaker. “I draw my concept from reality. Besides, the situations and the people I encounter, the places I see and my own mood dictate my decision on the next film,” he said. His next project is based on European refugees. He had strong words against Hollywood castigating it as responsible for the death of regional films in many countries. Mr. Makhmalbaf said that the censorship prevailing in Iran should not be mistaken as contributing to the wider global acceptance of Iranian movies. Rather, he attributed it to simplicity, social concepts based on which they are being made, realistic treatment, its root in poetry, the constant search to find something new. One could find the same reasons in the Indian movie ‘Pather Panchali,’ he felt. “Censorship kills cinema. Sometimes a little pressure gives filmmakers more energy to fight it. But strangulate them and they will die. That’s why many Iranian filmmakers are not able to make films there now,” he said. Mr. Makhmalbaf was not much euphoric about the popular uprisings in West Asian countries like Egypt. Egypt’s case is similar to Iran in the years after Islamic Revolution. “At that time, we thought that all our problems will be solved if the king goes. But he was replaced by a religious dictator. In our quest for democracy, we lost everything including liberalism and secularism,” he said.
He feels that democracy without morality is futile. Democracy is about vote of the majority but without morality the minority will be alienated.
You’re living in the age of the Internet. Your religion will be mocked, and the mockery will find its way to you. Get over it.
If you don’t, what’s happening this week will happen again and again. A couple of idiots with a video camera and an Internet connection will trigger riots across the globe. They’ll bait you into killing one another.
Stop it. Stop following their script.
Today, fury, violence, and bloodshed are consuming the Muslim world. Why? Because a bank fraud artist in California offered people $75 a day to come to his house and act out scenes that ostensibly had nothing to do with Islam. Then he replaced the audio, putting words in the actors’ mouths, and stitched together the scenes to make an absurdly bad movie ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed. He put out flyers to promote the movie. Nobody—literally nobody—came to watch it.
He posted a 14-minute video excerpt of the movie on YouTube, but hardly anyone noticed. Then, a week ago, an anti-Muslim activist in Virginia reposted the video with an Arabic translation and sent the link to activists and journalists in Egypt. An Egyptian TV show aired part of the video. An Egyptian politician denounced it. Clerics sounded the alarm. Through Facebook and Twitter, protesters were mobilized to descend on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The uprising spread. The U.S. ambassador to Libya has been killed, and violence has engulfed other countries.
When the protests broke out, the guy who made the movie claimed to be an Israeli Jewfunded by other Jews. That turned out be a lie. Now he says he’s a Coptic Christian, even though Coptic Christian leaders in Egypt and the United States despise the movie andwant nothing to do with him. Another guy who helped make the movie claims to be aBuddhist. The movie was made in the United States, yet Sudanese mobs have attackedBritish and German embassies. Some Egyptians targeted the Dutch embassy, mistakenly thinking the Netherlands was behind the movie. Everyone’s looking for a group to blame and attack.
The men behind the movie said it would expose Islam as a violent religion. Now they’re pointing to the riots as proof. Muslims are “pre-programmed” to rage and kill, says the movie’s promoter. “Islam is a cancer,” says the director. According to the distributor, “The violence that it caused in Egypt is further evidence of how violent the religion and people are and it is evidence that everything in the film is factual.”
Congratulations, rioters. You followed the script perfectly. You did the propagandists’ work for them.
And the provocations won’t end here. Laws and censors won’t protect you from them. Liberal democracies allow freedom of expression. Our leaders and people condemn garbage like this video, but we don’t censor it. Even if we did, the diffusion of media technology makes suppression impossible. The director of this movie was forbidden, under his bank-fraud probation rules, from using computers or the Internet without approval. That didn’t stop him. Nor did it stop the Arabic-language distributor from reposting the video and disseminating it abroad.
Online propaganda is speech. But it’s also part of the global rise of lethal empowerment. It’s easier than ever to kill people. In Muslim countries, mass murderers favor bombs. In the United States, they prefer guns. In Japan, they’ve tried sarin nerve gas. TheOklahoma City bomber used fertilizer. The Sept. 11 hijackers used box cutters and passenger planes. Then came the letters filled with anthrax.
Derision is that much harder to control. The spread of digital technology and Internet bandwidth makes it possible to reach every corner of the globe almost instantly with homemade video defaming any faith tradition. It can become an incendiary weapon. But it has a weakness: It depends on you. You’re the detonator. If you don’t cooperate, the bomb doesn’t explode.
This isn’t just a Muslim problem, though that’s been the pattern lately. On YouTube, you can find videos insulting every religion on the planet: Jews, Christians, Hindus, Catholics,Mormons, Buddhists, and more. Some clips are ironic. Others are simply disgusting. Many were posted to bait one group into fighting another. The baiters are indiscriminate. The promoter of the Mohammed movie founded a group that also protests at Mormon temples.
The hatred and bloodshed will go on until you stop taking the bait. Mockery of your prophet on a computer with an Internet address somewhere in the world can no longer be your master. Nor can the puppet clerics who tell you to respond with violence. Lay down your stones and your anger. Go home and pray. God is too great to be troubled by the insults of fools.
2010|Drama|100 min Director: Mohamed DiabScreening and Panel Discussion
Pratibha Nandakumar, Poet
Pampa Chowdhury. Branch Head at Concern India Foundation
Moderated by Rashmi Vallabhajosyula, Entrepreneur
ABOUT THE FILM:
The film is about three women and their struggles with sexual harassment . The film took top prize in the 2010 Dubai International Film Festival. The filmmaker had to publicly deny that he had any intent to defame Egypt and assert that the issues are universal. The filmmaker had to even argue against banning of the film on the grounds that it could incite women to injure men in their sensitive parts with sharp tools.
Critic Haisam Abu-Samra writes (excerpts):
“678 is… a thoughtful study that leaves the gravity of the issue to speak for itself.
“678 provides some objective insight into the dynamics of sexual harassment … and the fostering environment that made it possible in the first place.
“All three women go through one or multiple incidents of traumatising sexual harassment. The incidents themselves aren’t exceptionally tragic; they’re even mild compared to the harassment stories that we’ve become used to hearing about. However, these incidents have upsetting physiological effects on the women, crippling them emotionally and functionally to the point that they transform into ghosts of their former selves.
“By focusing on the personal aspect of these women’s stories, 678 resonates on a large scale. It’s in these small moments where glimpses of their humanity become so apparent and immersive…
“Writer-director Diab shows restraint as a filmmaker by avoiding broad theatrics and melodrama for the most part. He also captures Cairo’s chaotic spirit with an authenticity rarely ever seen in Egyptian films.
“678 can be unsettling at times but it’s never uncomfortable. It doesn’t reach for an easy resolution or provide the answers. Rather than pointing a finger or looking for someone to blame, 678 takes a introspective look at a society plagued with contradictions and self-conflict, then the film invites its audience to take a second look around.”
Egypt MP Azza el-Garf publicly supports FGM, and is being sued by a local women’s org.
Egypt’s New Women Foundation said they are suing Islamist Parliament member Azza al-Garf over her pro-female genitals mutilation (FGM) statements. The women’s rights foundation sent a letter to the speaker of parliament Saad al-Katatny, informing him of legally going after Garf and asking for his permission to be allowed to take the MP to court.
The parliament needs to lift immunity for an MP in order for them to be held accountable in a court of law.
“We are on our way to sue Garf to preserve our rights and the gains of Egyptian women,” said the open letter to the speaker.
“We are suing her for going against Egyptian laws that criminalize sexual harassment and FGM, practices that goes against women rights and human rights.
“We completely refuse Garf’s statements and announce that she does not represent us.”
Garf gave similar statements on her Twitter account last month, calling for lifting the laws that criminalize FGM. The statements stirred criticism, which led to the FJP to announce that Garf has no account on Twitter and no comments were made by Garf herself.
Rights surveys in the country put the number of women who go through FGM to be around 86 percent. Current Egyptian law bans the practice and gives prison sentences to any medical staff who performs the surgery. However, many families go to underground clinics to get their daughters the procedure, risking permanent scares or even death.
In 2010, a 13-year-old girl died after a local doctor in the Nile Delta region’s Menoufiya governorate failed in the operation.
Local media said the doctor was arrested soon after when an unknown good Samaritan phoned a hotline service set up to report on female genital mutilation incidents.
The doctor, whose name was not revealed in local media reports of the incident, is to stand trial for the illegal operation that led to the girl’s death.
In June 2007, 12-year-old Badour Shakour died as a result of a circumcision operation. The death sparked a battle within the country over the use of the controversial medical procedure. Her death galvanized women and children’s rights groups to action, where they pushed for more stringent penalties against those who carry out female genital mutilation.
The tweets Garf made supporting FGM.
Shakour’s cause of death was an overdose of anesthetic, but her memory was the cause of an awakening that reached to the upper echelons of government.
In summer 2008, Egypt’s Parliament passed a law that ostensibly bans the controversial procedure. Not that it should have needed to legislate against FGM – it was already officially banned in the country during the mid-nineties – but with doctors continuing to perform the procedure on girls as young as five, Parliament felt it was necessary to intercede.
The new law stipulates a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($185) to 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($900) and a prison term of anywhere between three months and two years if caught performing FGM.
A doctor also could lose their medical license. In the case of Shakour, the doctor who performed the procedure languishes in prison after being convicted of manslaughter.