The bitter taste of the Egyptian Elections

Azza Kamal på Tahrirtorget.
Azza Kamel. Foto: Lena Wallquist


I am sitting in the living room of Azza Kamel, a long time activist and human rights defender. It feels like the taste of the traditional Egyptian food she serves me fades away while we are talking about tomorrow. Some call it Election Day others prefer to sight deeply and keep silent.

I ask her; well Azza after all the struggle and endless work to regain some of the light that was shed upon the Egyptian people January 2011, what are your feeling for tomorrow? She looks at me with deep concern and says, “I am confused and certainly not happy. But what can we do if not continue?

What I admire though is the strength and stubbornness that shines through Azza’s eyes but yet also tiredness and less enthusiasm.

As field representative for Kvinna till Kvinna in Egypt, it feels like I am in a vacuum of constant paradoxes. I know that not even my interpretation makes sense but I guess that this is the situation right now. It’s not exciting to witness the elections because it’s not the historical event we all were hoping for but yet the door is still half open at the far end.

During one year I have been following women’s organizations and their struggle to be noticed, take part and demand the inclusion of women in the transitional period. No democracy without justice, no justice without equality, was the motto and in a way still it is even though it looks dark.

A year has passed and for women it has meant being depraved of the small positive stops they took to advance women’s legal and human rights. The quota system was cancelled by the military council which guaranteed at least 70 seats for women in the parliament. Today there are only 11 women occupying 2 % of the seats. Moreover, women were subjected to so called virginity test, something that actually is considered as sexual violence.  Today officers and doctors in charge of conducting these horrible violations walk free and by military court decision off the hook.

Basically women have been shut of from participating and the scarier situation right now is the talks in the parliament lead by conservative religious figures to cancel the law that criminalizes Female Genital Mutilation as well as lowering the age limit for girls to get married.

Most presidential candidates do not work in favor for women. In fact the two most famous ones are for a radicalization of Islam which directly in real life means fewer opportunities for women to be protected by legislation as well as possibility to take part in public life.

These days journalist are chasing the “real” opinion and seem to still do what they always done, ask the people on the street, the taxi drivers or the man on the street with his small business trying to survive the day. Today I have been thinking a lot who are the real people?  Is it the Azza Kamels, the taxi drivers, the religious leaders, the military or people outside the big cities? It neither of them but all of them together. So while journalists chase the real Egyptian opinion, I am holding my breath and hope to exhale soon again because I really want to feel the real taste of Azza‘s food!

Saba Nowzari