Egyptian Riot Grrls: Finding the Feminine Face of Fury

February 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

by Beenish Ahmed

(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Much has been aflutter on twitter about the very visible presence of women among the protests that have taken Egypt by storm over the last few weeks, but images of them have remained sparse amid the digital slideshows strung together by major media outlets, portraying mainly dense crowds of the manly.

What falls within these frames does not necessarily paint a full picture, since as Egyptian Organization for Human Rights activist Ghada Shahbandar claims, the crowd in downtown Cairo is up to 20 percent female. Others have put the number much higher, at 50 percent.

Although they are less prevalent, some efforts have been made to depict the role of women this popular uprising. The Global Post put together a slideshow on the Women of Egypt among the March of Millions in Tahrir Square, and a compilation of photographs from various sources can be found on sawt al niswa, a self-described “feminist webspace.”

A quick look through the reels of these images reveals the feminine side of fury and eliminates any remaining shred of doubt that the issues of unemployment and corruption that are widely cited as the primary causes for this unrest effect only men.

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Aafia Siddiqui: Symbol or Spectacle?

September 29, 2010 § 4 Comments

by Beenish Ahmed

Convicted of attempted murder, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, 38, was sentenced to 86 years in prison in New York on Thursday. The Pakistan-native was held in custody for two years after allegedly shooting at US troops and an F.B.I agent in Afghanistan with an assault rifle she grabbed from behind a curtain, unlocked, and fired before being shot in the stomach by an interpreter.

Although she infamously topped America’s most wanted list for years, most Americans would be hard pressed to comment at all on the MIT and Brandeis graduate who is due to serve decades in jail for compromising their security.

Perhaps Siddiqui’s trial has received so little attention in the US because the charges brought against her do not relate not to her’s supposed links to Al-Qaeda, or the canisters of chemicals, bomb-making manuals, and lists of American landmarks that she had been carrying at the time her detainment in Afghanistan. This has been seen by Harper’s and many others as an all too easy story, especially given the immense variance in claims made by US officials and Afghani eye-witnesses, as well as Siddiqui’s own story. Despite the questionable circumstances of her arrest, however, no evidence about her capture was allowed to surface at all in the recent trial, only furthering protest in Pakistan.

While the verdict was announced only in the regional section of the New York Times, in her own country, Siddiqui’s case become something of a cause célèbre. Many Pakistanis have long condemned what they believe to be an unjust trial based on fabricated evidence through demonstrations as well as information campaigns.

Given this divergence in understanding, it is worthwhile to ask not only who Aafia Siddiqui is, but what she has come to represent to everyday Pakistanis.

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Why Pakistan isn’t getting the aid it needs

August 21, 2010 § 1 Comment

by Beenish Ahmed

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon has called the recent floods in Pakistan the worst humanitarian disaster he has ever witnessed. With over 20 percent of the country under water, contagious diseases run rampant while the delivery of vital goods and services are all but halted by gushing water and broken roads.

While the 1500 projected dead in Pakistan is a minuscule sum compared to the 100,000 lives lost in the earthquake that ravaged Haiti at the onset of this year, or the 250,000 killed by the South East Asian Tsunami of 2004, exponentially more people are adversely affected by the flood. As cruel as the reality seems, the amount of aid needed cannot be measured in terms of death toll, but in terms of those who continue to live amidst the rubble of their former lives.

The plights of those who survive when all around them falls to a state of ruin is especially heart-wrenching, and tuning in to such atrocity has not come without a response of great empathy. An outpouring of donations to relief work came from all corners of the world as it watched the aftermath of hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and now a catastrophic flood. Still, with such widespread devastation hitting the globe with frightening regularity, the amount that sympathetic souls can give, especially those who are themselves hard-pressed by a recession of epic proportions is seemingly on the decline.

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