Thursday, February 3, 2011

News Reports Stress Role of Women in Egyptian Demonstrations, Kristof Calls on Obama to Condemn Violence

As I read Nicholas Kristof's on-the-spot account today in the New York Times, re: the attack of peaceful protesters in Cairo by government thugs wielding razors and clubs, I'm struck by a subtext of the story of revolution in Egypt that seems to be cropping up in several news stories.  This is the courageous, important role Egyptian women are taking in opposing Mubarak's oppression and in supporting the call for a new form of government.  

Kristof's report notes the calm, commanding way in which two "ordinary" Egyptian women, sisters named Amal and Minna, dealt with one gang of the thugs Wednesday--thugs who happen to be, surprise!, all armed young men.  He watched these two unarmed women stand down a gang of these young men with weapons, forcing them to slink away.  Amal and Minna backed  down the thugs threatening them and other peaceful protesters simply by asserting their right to speak out on behalf of democracy.

In a piece posted at Huffington Post last evening, Jake Bialer also stresses the significant role women are playing in the Cairo protests.  Bialer notes, "In these demonstrations, which have already led to Mubarak agreeing not to run for re-election, women have taken an active role: promoting them, leading crowds, and providing aid to harmed protesters."

Given the pluck and determination being displayed by countless Egyptian citizens even in the face of ugly government-organized violence that has taken the lives of quite a few people (no one yet has a complete fix on the numbers), I agree wholeheartedly with Nicholas Kristof, as he concludes his essay with a strong appeal to Mr. Obama to speak out far more forcefully to condemn the violence Mubarak has unleashed against protesters in Egypt: 

Chinese and Iranian leaders were widely condemned for those atrocities, so shouldn’t Mr. Mubarak merit the same broad condemnation? Come on, President Obama. You owe the democracy protesters being attacked here, and our own history and values, a much more forceful statement deploring this crackdown.

It should be increasingly evident that Mr. Mubarak is not the remedy for the instability in Egypt; he is its cause. The road to stability in Egypt requires Mr. Mubarak’s departure, immediately.

But for me, when I remember this sickening and bloody day, I’ll conjure not only the brutality that Mr. Mubarak seems to have sponsored but also the courage and grace of those Egyptians who risked their lives as they sought to reclaim their country. And incredibly, the democracy protesters held their ground all day at Tahrir Square despite this armed onslaught. Above all, I’ll be inspired by those two sisters standing up to Mr. Mubarak’s hoodlums. If they, armed only with their principles, can stand up to Mr. Mubarak’s thuggery, can’t we all do the same? 

As I've repeated over and over on this blog, the current administration has undermined its credibility and weakened its effectiveness from the outset by waffling on issues of human rights and evading discourse affirming human rights at almost any juncture at which there has been occasion to employ that discourse.  What's happening in Egypt gives Mr. Obama a chance to retrieve some integrity for his administration by standing, for once, unambiguously on the side of human rights in a situation in which there is hardly any ambiguity about which side now carries the human rights banner.

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