Woman activist recalls misogynistic slur during Egyptian uprising

Sally Toma, an Egyptian political activist, recalled in a post on Facebook her experience during the 2011 uprising and how women’s visible presence in the protest movement excited scandal, even among their fellow male revolutionaries.

Toma is a psychiatrist who specialises in the rehabilitation of victims of sexual abuse and torture. She was a member of the Revolutionary Youth coalition set up during the Egyptian uprising.

She wrote that when she assumed the role of field coordinator of the political campaign of Mohamed ElBaradei, a main figure in the Egyptian uprising, a number of individuals who quit his campaign (for reasons not related to her), went around tarnishing her reputation. They branded her “a communist”—considered a slur term by Egypt’s religious majority—and a woman “with loose virtues”.

A local campaign coordinator fell out with her over a disagreement and asked her to leave and wait for him in “the flat”, insinuating that she will have sex with him.

“It was beyond my belief that some of my countrymen could be so devoid of chivalry. I went home and thought of quitting the campaign,” she wrote.

She wondered what her parents, originally from the socially conservative south of Egypt, would feel if they were to find out about the sexual sledge directed at her.

But ElBaradei and his wife, Toma wrote, called to console her, saying their daughter had become a subject of scandal since he assumed a central role in the opposition against the Mubarak regime before the latter stepped down.

[His daughter’s picture clad in bikini and the fact that she is married to a foreigner excited scandal and the Mubarak regime was believed to have stirred it all up.]

ElBaradei told Toma: “There are those who work in my campaign who cannot take it that a woman is a campaign coordinator and their superior; so they tarnish her reputation and sully her honour because of a squabble in the public sphere. We might as well have no revolution if such people are the [revolutionary] youths.”

“ElBaradei sacked the person involved in the incident and I returned to the campaign only to quit after a while, not because I felt defeated but because I knew that no [credible] elections could be held under the rule of the military. Later, ElBaradei himself quit the scene.”