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The Rights of Egyptian Women: The Early Fight of Qasim Amin

It was not an easy task for Egyptian women to obtain their basic rights, such as the right to education and to work. Rather they, along with many men, have been fighting and challenging the traditional prejudice of the Egyptian society against women.

The Rights of Egyptian Women: The Early Fight

Among the earliest and most important pioneers of Egyptian women’s liberation was Qasim Amin (1863-1908). During the late 18th century and early 19th, Egyptian women were not allowed to get an education or work, they were even forbidden from any social life outside of their homes.

The video produced by Bayt Al Hikma 2.0 (A project of Ideas Beyond Borders) tells the story of Amin’s fight for the rights of Egyptian women. When he called for women’s rights challenged many of the leaders of the Egyptian society and risked his social status to empower women. In the video, we get introduced to Amin’s two major books; “the Liberation of Women” and “the New Women,” in which Amin presented and refuted several traditional claims that are still used in Arab societies to perpetuate oppression and sexism against women.

Yet, because of Amin and other activists after him, Egyptian women gradually achieved their right to education, work, suffrage, etc. However, the video highlights the fact that while Arab women have been able to achieve some progress and obtain some rights, we all still need to stand in solidarity fighting prejudices, sexism, and discrimination against women.

Book cover of The Liberation of Women by Qasim Amin

The video generated 655 shares, 570 comments, 3.8K interactions, 605K views, and 26.7K one-minute views. And it reached 770K. It triggered a massive debate among viewers.

Noteworthy: the majority of comments came from female viewers, which shows that this video has been able to touch a nerve for Arab women. Many female viewers responded expressing their gratitude for what Amin had done for the cause of Arab women’s rights. For instance, Mona Yousef wrote:

“Amin was truly a pioneer. Suffice that though he was a man, he had been the first person to promote women’s liberation and rights. Yet, after a century, there are women who refuse and deny these rights for their own.”

Some viewers show their gratitude for this illuminating video, praising the strong argument and smooth narration, such as Nourhan Elmansy who stated:

“I really liked that the script is written in an easy, organized, and attractive style. The voiceover sounds great, I enjoyed it so much. Moreover, the video editing is excellent. All those elements help to make the information stick in our minds. I also liked that you mentioned the video’s sources. Indeed, you did a great job!”

Others expressed their concern that Arab women are still suffering from oppression under the auspices of religion or traditions. Amina Mostafa says:

“The status of women now is not better than in the past. In fact, the woman has now taken the responsibility for her household, working to provide for her family. Yet, she is abused and insulted by her irresponsible husband.”

Altaey Rafia Mohammed commented:

“Women will remain without rights as long as there are extremist religious leaders, ignorance, and dominance of religious thinking over society.”

Picture of a Protest for The Rights of Egyptian Women

Still many others, however, rejected any calls for women’s liberation, claiming that those ideas are foreign to Arab culture and violate the teaching of Islam. One example is Fatma Amer, who notes:

“Frankly, it is because of Qasim Amin and his ilk that we have reached such moral decay that exists today. That was Satan’s first step in leading us astray.”

For a person calling him/herself Ya Cin, the argument for women’s liberation is an attempt from the West to force its rules over the Arab world:

“Women issues are a tool against Arab society. Whenever the West wants to call us ‘backward’, it uses this excuse accusing us of not giving our women their liberation. The West, however, is the one who now calls its women to stay at home.”

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