Mona Eltahawy

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Egyptian soccer fans react as they watch the FIFA World Cup 2018 group A preliminary round soccer match between Egypt and Russia in downtown Cairo, Egypt, on 19 June 2018. (Photo by Ahmed Awaad/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Soon after my family moved from Egypt to London, when I was seven years old and my brother was three, my mother sat us down for a talk: we are Egyptian and Muslim, she told us, remember that.

My father did not have to sit us down for a talk. But we learned every Saturday night, as we sat by his side watching “Match of the Day” broadcast one of that day’s English Division One football games, that we were also football fans (ever since, my dad and brother have supported Liverpool, while I’ve been a fan of Manchester United). And we remembered that.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Saudi woman checks her future car at a showroom ahead of being able to practice the right to drive. Credit Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters

Feminism terrifies authoritarians.

Why else would the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman — the heir-apparent of an absolute monarchy that has ruled since 1932 over a country named after its patriarch, hold Loujain al-Hathloul, a 28-year-old graduate student, incommunicado for weeks?

Why would he, after being lauded on CBS’s “60 Minutes” for “emancipating women”on the eve of a visit to America last March, send forces in May to arrest 17 women’s rights activists, among them Ms. Hathloul, and also Aisha al-Mana, 70, a director of hospitals and a college for health sciences who suffered a stroke last year?

What threat does a 60-year-old retired professor, Aziza al-Yousef — a mother of five and grandmother of eight who was also arrested — pose that merits a pro-government newspaper putting her picture on its front page under the headline, “You and Your Treachery Have Failed”?…  Seguir leyendo »

A Kenyan Muslim held up a sign during a protest against terrorism-related extraordinary renditions, Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007. Credit Khalil Senosi/Associated Press

In his tweet announcing her selection for promotion to director of the Central Intelligence Agency, President Trump boasted that Gina Haspel was the “first woman so chosen”.

As an Egyptian feminist, I am not celebrating.

Ms. Haspel played a direct role in the C.I.A.’s global kidnap, detention and torture operation known as “extraordinary rendition”. Under the program, which was adopted after the 9/11 attacks, suspected militants who were captured in Afghanistan were sent to other countries, which held them in secret detention and allowed C.I.A. personnel to torture them. The first secret prison was in Thailand, where, as an undercover officer in 2002, Ms.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women protesting against sexual harassment in Cairo, in June 2014. Allegations of sexual misconduct have recently been directed at two prominent human rights lawyers in the country. Credit Amr Nabil/Associated Press

Two women with little in common have detonated their way out of the fortress of taboo that surrounds sexual violence in Egypt, where victimized women are routinely forced to accept shame and blame, not justice. In fighting back and speaking out, these two have forced the beginnings of a reckoning onto men whom countless excuses have absolved of their mistreatment of women.

In February, a court sentenced a man in southern Egypt to three years in prison for groping one of the women. In Cairo, a onetime presidential candidate, Khaled Ali — whom some had considered an avatar of the ideals of Egypt’s 2011 revolution — resigned as head of the Bread and Freedom Party and as a lawyer with the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights after being accused of sexual misconduct.…  Seguir leyendo »

A young Pakistani woman named Sabica Khan wrote a Facebook post this month about her harrowing experience at Islam’s holy site in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. She wrote about being sexually harassed while performing the tawwaf — the circling of the Ka’aba, the cubical structure toward which Muslims pray five times a day. In response, hundreds of Muslim women shared similar experiences on her wall. Her post was shared at least 2,000 times. To support her, I started #MosqueMeToo and tweeted about my own experience of sexual assault during the Muslim pilgrimage, the hajj. In two days, my Twitter thread had been retweeted or liked thousands of times.…  Seguir leyendo »

A campaign poster for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt in Cairo this month. Credit Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Which country, due to hold a presidential election next month, is led by an autocrat who, having eliminated any serious competition, is basically running against himself?

Hints: A political analyst in that country has said, as a reminder of the deliberate ineffectiveness of electoral competitors, “Some figures are allowed in, like backup dancers.” Indeed, the most serious challenger to the incumbent president has been barred from contesting the election, which denies him a platform to broadcast accusations of corruption that could involve the president.

The answer, of course, is Russia, where President Vladimir V. Putin has eliminated all serious competition, most notably Alexei A.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women shout slogans during demonstrations on the seventh anniversary of the toppling of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, in Tunis, Tunisia, on Jan. 14, 2018. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)

Seven years after Tunisia sparked the first protests in what has become known as the “Arab Spring”, and ousted its long-standing dictator, it is generating inspiration and anger yet again. How? By upending what many consider more difficult to overthrow than dictators-for-life: Islamic laws and taboos on marriage and inheritance.

In February, President Beji Caid Essebsi is expected to make good on a 2017 promise to make Tunisia the first Muslim country to grant equal inheritance to men and women. Islamic inheritance law typically gives men double the inheritance of women. Last year, Essebsi also lifted a ban on Muslim women in Tunisia marrying men outside their faith.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt in France in October. Credit Thibault Camus/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For the past three Tuesdays, Egypt has hanged civilians sentenced to death by military tribunals:

Jan. 9: Three men were hanged. They had been convicted of rape and sentenced to die by a military tribunal in 2011.

Jan. 2: Four men accused of being Islamic militants were hanged. They had been tried and sentenced to death by a military tribunal for an attack in 2015 outside a stadium that killed three military academy students.

Dec. 26: Fifteen men accused of being militants were hanged. A military tribunal had convicted them in November and sentenced them to death for an attack on a military checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula in 2013 in which one officer and eight soldiers were killed.…  Seguir leyendo »

On reading that 100 French women, including actor Catherine Deneuve, had penned a letter that claimed social media campaigns such as #MeToo were “witch-hunts” against men and threatened sexual freedom, the internalized misogyny was almost too much to bear. It was predictable that some women would dutifully side with men rather than the women who are exposing sexual harassment and abuse in almost every profession and industry imaginable.

Much of the outrage directed against Deneuve, et al. has mostly explained the anti-#MeToo sentiments of the signatories as belonging to another generation of women who were socialized to accept misogyny in a way younger women today reject.…  Seguir leyendo »

Victims of an attack at a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai province being carried away on stretchers. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An attack at a Sufi mosque in the northern Sinai Peninsula in Egypt killed at least 235 people on Friday. It was the first time that Islamist militants — who have been attacking security forces and Christian churches for years — have gone after Muslim worshipers.

The carnage and audacity were horrific. According to witnesses, dozens of gunmen in off-road vehicles bombed the mosque, which was packed with worshipers at Friday Prayers. The assailants then opened fire as people tried to flee, and set fire to parked vehicles to block off access to the mosque.

It is unclear who carried out the attack, though groups claiming affiliation with the Islamic State are known to operate in the area.…  Seguir leyendo »

Muslim women praying in Lahore, Pakistan, at the historic Badshahi Mosque, in June. Credit K.M. Chaudary/Associated Press

The unending tide of accounts of sexual harassment and assault by powerful men that women are suddenly allowing themselves to share is a reminder of the ubiquity of sexual violence that women worldwide have long known too well — and that men in a few places are finally, albeit reluctantly, acknowledging.

It is a watershed moment finally to recognize the global reach and power of patriarchy, be it in entertainment, media, business or politics, whether in Hollywood, Washington, Paris or elsewhere.

In this month alone, terminations, resignations and accusations have starkly highlighted the prevalence of patriarchy’s crimes, for too long enabled by institutions that knew but failed to act.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fans of the Lebanese indie-rock band Mashrou’ Leila waving a rainbow flag during a performance in Cairo on Sept. 22. Credit Benno Schwinghammer/Picture-Alliance, via Associated Press

It was a calamitous ambush. On Oct. 21, militants fired rockets and detonated explosives in the desert southwest of Cairo, killing at least 59 Egyptian police officers and security officials in the worst assault on security forces since 2015. The shocking attack is the latest reminder of the very real threat that armed militants pose to Egypt’s security forces.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seems incapable of quelling this menace: An insurgency that has killed hundreds of troops and police officers in northern Sinai continues; judges and police officers in Cairo have been attacked.

So with such a real and present danger, why would Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

The ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the defendant’s cage in a Cairo courtroom in between his sons, Gamal and Alaa, in 2015. Credit Mostafa El-Shemy/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When I heard that Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak had been released on Friday from the military hospital where he had been detained since his trial began a few months after the January 2011 revolution that ousted him, I looked up pictures from that trial. I wanted to remember the thrill, albeit short-lived, of seeing this incarnation of all the entitlement accrued over nearly 30 years of rule confined to the cage where defendants are kept in Egyptian courtrooms.

It is awful and humiliating to be in that cage. That is its intention.

So this was a sight that expressed Egypt’s revolutionary audacity.…  Seguir leyendo »

A picture of a cathedral complex bomb attack victim during her funeral procession in Cairo this month. Mohamed Hossam/European Pressphoto Agency

The Dec. 11 bombing of a church in the Cairo cathedral complex — the seat of the Coptic pope — has been claimed by the Islamic State, although the Egyptian government has blamed the Muslim Brotherhood. Whoever planted the bomb that killed 27 people, including a 10-year-old girl, when it ripped through a church full of Sunday worshipers understood well how endemic bigotry in Egypt has left Christian lives at the whim of a regime that pays lip service to protecting them, armed Islamists who actively seek them harm, and a public that largely does not care.

To gauge the enormity of what happened at the church of St.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Egypt Goes to the Beach

I paused for a second as I packed for a last-minute break on Egypt’s North Coast, known as Sahel in Arabic. Should I take my bikini? Or a one-piece? Or what?

I hadn’t been to the beach in Egypt for years and was unsure of what now passed for acceptable attire. The pendulum of social mores here has swung in a resolutely conservative direction over the past three decades, and perhaps its most visible impact has been the trend toward veils and an obsession with women’s “modesty.” As a young adult, I myself wore the hijab for nine years, covering everything except for my face and hands.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sex Talk for Muslim Women

After I gave a reading in Britain last year, a woman stood in line as I signed books. When it was her turn, the woman, who said she was from a British Muslim family of Arab origin, knelt down to speak so that we were at eye level.

“I, too, am fed up with waiting to have sex,” she said, referring to the experience I had related in the reading. “I’m 32 and there’s no one I want to marry. How do I get over the fear that God will hate me if I have sex before marriage?”

I hear this a lot.…  Seguir leyendo »

My friend Mostafa Massouny has one of the most eclectic music collections of anyone I know. I initially typed “had” and “knew,” because I fear Mostafa is dead.

We met at a party where I was impressed by a playlist of Nubian musicians he played. Since then, he shared some of that collection with me, often via Facebook or Twitter messages sent at the oddest of hours, accompanied with a simple “listen.” The two most recent gifts I got from him, last year: Chet Baker and Paul Desmond’s “Autumn Leaves,” followed by Hugo Díaz’s “Guitarra Mia.” It was always a delight to receive a YouTube or SoundCloud link from him.…  Seguir leyendo »

These are grim times in Egypt. The country is still absorbing the news of the downing of the Russian airliner that killed 224 people last month. But to many, the tears of 23-year-old Esraa el-Taweel most poignantly captured the grinding misery of life under the military-backed regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Ms. Taweel, a photojournalist and student, was shot in the back in 2014 when police dispersed a protest to mark the third anniversary of the Jan. 25 revolution, which she was photographing. Still partially disabled, she uses a crutch to get around.

On June 1, after dining out with friends, she was bundled into a van and taken to a national security facility.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the end of June, Egypt’s notoriously backlogged criminal justice system found time to try and convict Reda al-Fouly on charges of “inciting debauchery.” Less than a month later, two other women were jailed pending investigation on the same charge. They were arrested after complaints filed by lawyers acting privately accused them of outraging public decency.

All three women are belly dancers whose supposed crime was to perform in “immoral videos” available on YouTube. To be precise, the women danced in costumes that revealed a lot of leg and cleavage, in videos for which you had to actively search. But in Egypt, and much of the Middle East, “inciting debauchery” is like violating national security.…  Seguir leyendo »

Esraa el-Taweel, 23, went out to dinner with friends on June 1 and has not been seen since. Ms. Taweel, a student and photojournalist who was shot in the spine last year while covering protests on the anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, is said to have difficulty walking. Her family believes she was forcibly “disappeared” along with two young friends, Sohaib Mohamed and Amr Mohamed.

For days now, the hashtag #forceddisappearance has spread across Egyptian social media, as family and friends look for missing loved ones, mostly young people from across the political spectrum. Some are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and others are affiliated with the secular April 6 youth movement, while still others are not attached to any movement or party.…  Seguir leyendo »