Last Monday marked the fifth anniversary of the start of the Egyptian revolution, when thousands of Egyptians stormed Tahrir Square demanding bread, freedom and justice. On Feb. 11, 2011 — eleven days later, former President Hosni Mubarak, who reigned decadently for nearly 30 years, announced his resignation, which was met with victory and celebrations from around the globe.
Now five years later, Egypt returned to a police state under military strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who staged a military coup against democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi after thousands of Egyptians took to the street demanding his removal.
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) released a report, titled “Unmet Demands, Tenuous Stability,” that documents the tumultuous and still oppressive conditions in Egypt. The comprehensive report found that although women participated with men in the revolution, little progress has been made to address women’s rights issues like sexual harassment, female genital mutilation and female political and civic engagement in Egypt.
Egyptian women now make up nearly 15 percent of the seats in the newly elected parliament. This number is up from 12.7 percent in 2011, the last time the parliament was in session. Nonetheless, according to the 2015 Global Gender Report, Egypt ranks 136 out of 145 countries in gender equality.
Although women participated with men in the revolution, little progress has been made to address women’s rights issues like sexual harassment, female genital mutilation and female political and civic engagement in Egypt.
Sexual harassment and violence also remain as issues in Egypt. A 2013 report conducted by U.N. Women found that nearly 99 percent of girls and women in Egypt have experienced harassment.
Further, a 2013 Thomas Reuters Foundation poll concluded that Egypt is the worst Arab state for women, despite its more secular policies compared to other countries in the region.
With the rise of sexual harassment cases in Egypt, a limousine service driven by women and strictly for women called “Pink Taxi” emerged with the purpose of offering Egyptian women a safe transportation option.
Although interim president Adly Mansour criminalized harassment in 2011, there has been very few convictions in those cases, which is unsurprising since the judiciary has been more concerned with convicting Muslim brotherhood members or any individuals who display slight dissent towards the state.
Despite these women’s rights abuses and rampant political repression, the United States government continues to financially and militarily support Egypt.
Thousands of political dissidents from various political factions reside in prison cells, many of whom have not faced trial or even charges. Many of these prisoners are also women, who face rampant physical and psychological abuse.
Despite these women’s rights abuses and rampant political repression, the United States government continues to financially and militarily support Egypt. Egypt is the third largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, with Israel being the first followed by Afghanistan.
When Morsi was in power in 2013, one percent of the $1 billion aid funded developments in democracy, human rights and governance. In 2015, that number dropped to zero. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the aid is spent on the military, the largest institution in Egypt.
Many experts have started to criticize the United States’ political relationship with Egypt, because of the current authoritarian conditions that don’t display much signs of a gender-inclusive democracy, or even a basic democracy. In an article written for Creative Time Reports and featured on Salon, Ganzeer argues that the United States by continuing to bankroll the Egyptian regime and sending military equipment to Egypt, the U.S. is only furthering the current repression.
The Egyptian revolution was once a beacon of hope that embodied freedom and democracy, and inspired millions around the world to act against injustice. However, the historic country needs to undergo much social and political change to improve conditions for women and for all Egyptians.