Mona Eltahawy on Egypt’s Next Revolution

The Egyptian-American activist speaks out on the dangers women still face in a changing Mideast

Journalist Mona Eltahawy isn't finished fighting Egyptian oppression. (Clayton Cubitt)
Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

(Continued from page 6)

“Even to this day when we have a democratically (quote, unquote) ‘elected president.’ This happens.”

“This still goes on.”


A year or so ago, Foreign Policy magazine asked Eltahawy to write an essay analyzing the question of Islamists and women. She called it “Why Do They Hate Us?”

It was a play upon the title of a semi-famous post-9/11 Fareed Zakaria piece with nearly the same title, his about why the Muslim world, or at least the Islamist faction of it, “hates” the U.S. For our freedoms, he said, basically. (“Islamists” is a term used not for Muslims in general or mainstream Islam, but for extremists willing to use violence to establish theocratic regimes.)

Mona’s piece was about why she believes Islamists and their regimes hate women. Beneath the title was a graphic picture of “blue bra girl” in the process of being nearly stomped to death. Strong stuff. As were its words: “An entire political and economic system—one that treats half of humanity [meaning women] like animals—must be destroyed.”

Tell us how you really feel, Mona.

“You still have hope then?” I ask.

“What we need even more than regime change,” she tells me, “is a social and a sexual revolution that believes in individual freedoms, that believes essentially in removing the internal Mubarak. The regime oppressed everyone—but beneath that the culture repressed women. It’s a toxic mix of culture and religion and we have to change that. And if we don’t do it, the political revolution will not succeed.

“It’s going to be a mess for a few years, but it’s a necessary mess because we have to mature....But I remain optimistic because I’m looking five to ten years from now and I’m insistent that we organize so that we provide an alternative to Islamists.”


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus