Socialist Worker

Egypt - 'Never lose faith in the revolution'

Mahienour El-Massry, a leading member of the Revolutionary Socialists in Alexandria, Egypt, spoke to Socialist Worker about the ongoing revolution and the role that women have played in it

Published Tue 5 Mar 2013
Issue No. 2343

Mahienour El-Massry  (Pic: Mohamed Hossny)

Mahienour El-Massry (Pic: Mohamed Hossny)


I started to be politically active when I was 18 years old. I joined the campaign against dictator Hosni Mubarak handing power to over his son Gamal.

I was part of the AGEG (Anti Globalisation Egyptian Group). Then I joined the Revolutionary Socialists.

I was a student and helped form the Socialist Students. It was the only political group in Alexandria University other than the Muslim Brotherhood.

It was a challenge to introduce the words socialism, communism and revolution to students. We worked with workers trying to form independent unions.

Then in 2010 18-year old Khaled Said was killed. He became the icon of the Egyptian Revolution.

We started a big campaign against state and police torture. There were huge protests in Alexandria and other cities.

During the 18 days of the revolution in 2011, Alexandria was different from the great pictures of packed Tahrir Square. But it was no less revolutionary.

Alexandrians were full of hatred towards the state and the police. We had big marches daily and all residents of Alexandria participated.

After the 18 days Alexandria was one of the most revolutionary cities of Egypt.

There have been ups and downs during the revolution.

In November 2011 only a few clung to their revolutionary beliefs. Yet since then millions have been back on the streets.

This is a lesson we all have to learn. Never lose faith in the people or the revolution.

Role

Women played an important role in struggle long before the revolution.

In 2006 police tried to evacuate the Kamshish village to give land to the old owner, who is a big tycoon.

Female peasants stood against it. The only martyr from the clashes with the police was a woman, Nefissa El Marakby .

Women workers led strikes on 6 April 2008. They started chanting, “Where are the men? Here are the women” to mobilise other workers.

Female tax collectors played a leading role during the 2007 tax collectors sit-in.

Women and girls helped prepare for the 25 January protests that turned out to be the beginning of the revolution.

There were big protests to defend women after the military beat and took off the clothes of a woman near Tahrir Square.

Since that women have been the dynamo of the revolution.

I think that part of the growth of sexual harassment in Tahrir Square is to scare women away.

The police harass women and threaten to rape us.

But you win when you show them you are not afraid and are stronger than them. They then have no clue how to deal with you!

Sometimes it was hard for us women to go and engage in strikes or go to villages to work with farmers.

But usually we break the ice after a while and then they deal with us with no problems.

With time society starts looking at you not as a woman who is weak and needs help, but as a human.

Mahienour El-Massry will be speaking via Skype to an International Women's Day event in central London hosted by the SWP on Thursday 7 March.

How do we win liberation? takes place from 7.30pm at Swiss Church, 79 Endell St, London WC2H 9DY


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Tue 5 Mar 2013, 15:46 GMT
Issue No. 2343
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