As women across the world take to the streets in front of Egyptian embassies, consulates and on streets in Egypt against what many are describing as sexual terrorism against female protesters in and around Tahrir Square in recent months, let us not forget those in Egypt who remain silent, for their very existence is illegal: lesbians.
These women face violence just as other Egyptian women do, battling the rape, assault and injustice that is meted out to them by Egyptian men in mob attacks, on back streets, in the home and in the office. However, they also face another violence, one that is unfortunately silenced as the media focus on other “more important” topics. Being gay in the Middle East is being shut off from mainstream society. As a lesbian in Egypt, the violence, in language and deeds, is magnified even further.
Over the past few days leading up to “Global Protest Feb 12” across the world, we at 429Magazine spoke with a few Egyptian lesbians about the struggle to be women’s rights activists in what has become a highly politicized country.
“It is a battle we have to deal with everyday because many people, when they find out we are gay, they don’t want to have much to do with us, so it is hard,” said one activist, who preferred not to have her name revealed due to the situation on the ground.
With numerous women’s rights organizations and activists in over 30 cities across the globe take to demonstrations to voice their frustration at the rising violence directed toward women in the country while protesting, it is sad that the LGBT community is not being included in this discussion. For lesbians in Egypt, it’s a double-whammy being a woman and gay. The threats to their physical safety are that much greater.
“I don’t think we should try to separate, but these organizations that stand up for justice and women’s rights don’t want to say anything about lesbians or our community because they are afraid to lose money and support. It’s politics,” added the young 20-something activist. “It’s really sad that we are now not politically good enough.” The day of protest on Tuesday comes as reports of women being stripped and attack with knives in Tahrir Square in what activists have described to Bikyanews.com as the “final straw” in the “ongoing battle for women’s rights and safety in Egypt.”
For the LGBT population, this politicization of women is a frustrating reality, but they hope that perceptions can change and they are not too worried that groups are leaving aside specific lesbian-related issues.
“They will come, and as women are becoming more empowered, it will ensure that we all are safe and having a better future in Egypt,” the activist added.
Still, as thousands take to the streets, both women and men, in cities and countries across the globe, we must also be sure that as we battle for women’s rights in Egypt, we understand that plurality of “female” that exists in the country in order to better serve all Egyptian women.
Let us not forget the lesbians in Egypt, those brave activists who have struggled longer than two years to be heard, but sadly remain silenced.