Nora writes about the Streets are ours event that she helped organize.
this event was a unique experience that is unfortunately not getting enough coverage, will try to post about it later today.
meanwhile check the photos, and read Nora's account below
So yesterday we had this conference "The Street is Ours". We were some 400 people at the Press Syndicate’s fourth floor auditorium. Very far away indeed from the street, yet claiming it was ours! We, the organizers, are a group of individual women who experienced police violence and sexual harassment at first hand on the referendum day, supported mainly by a dedicated team from Youth for Change movement. Initially, we had thought of organizing a peaceful women march in the street after the conference, but looking down from the windows, it was clearly occupied with security forces trucks and riot police. What Gaza strip looked like compared to this, I wondered.
On the day before, Wednesday, the taxi driver refused to let me out in front of Darih Saad where a candle light sit-in was taking place. The sit-in was also to protest the brutality, sexual harassments and molestation that took place in the very same location by NDP thugs and security forces on the referendum day. When the taxi driver saw the police forces he was sweating with fear, squeezing the gas pedal, holding hard to the driving wheel in the very narrow street. I was yelling at him to stop but he wouldn't. He let me out one kilometer away that I had to walk back amidst security in plain cloth, uniforms and trucks. "Can't you see? There is a protest. We can't come close to places where such things happen," he tried to explain. Filled with anger I slammed the door in his face. So what? Everyone is overwhelmed in a culture of fear. What would take these people to push for their freedom of expression? I guess they are satisfied with the portion of freedom in legal sex and football games.
The mood, however, at the Press Syndicate was one of militancy. The auditorium’s stage was left vacant for posters of General Habib el-Adly, minister of interior, surrounded by posters of two of the generals who facilitated the referendum brutalities, requesting them expelled and brought to justice. Left alone in the back they were, whereas we filled the hall, corridors and corners.
Participants varied from representatives of human rights organizations and several political groups, as well as apolitical people. We managed to reach the latter by distributing 2000 invitations in the streets, cafes, and public transportation. Yes, that part was one of many steps we took that was enough to take us to prison under the emergency law. Distributing flyers in public places calling for a political meeting is a crime!! Let Mubarak chant of his democracy.
Another challenge I personally faced was when I struggled between different Xerox centres to print the posters and the press kits. No one would print a paper asking to expel Habib el-Adly. "Do you think you are not being followed? Can't they know where did you print this?" The Xerox centre owner asked me in terror. "What you are doing will only harm you and people around you, but will change nothing,” he said. “He (el-Adly) deserves to be more than just expelled for what happened, but we can't do anything about it". I argued why the streets in Cairo are soaked in pro-Mubarak posters and banners announcing that 70 million Egyptians say “Yes” to Mubarak whereas I can't print a poster against the minister of interior. "I am not a coward,” the Xerox shop owner replied. “Believe me, I want to help you but I also have kids to raise. Please don't come here again."
The guy was sincere; after all he did give me a discount and did print the posters. But he was shaking and avoiding eye contact with me, counting down the seconds I grab my papers and walk out.
Again, I thought, walking out of the Xerox shop with those posters could get me imprisoned, maybe tortured, with no specific charges as long as they release me within 15 days. Whereas if it was a “Yes for Mubarak” I may get a job in the National Council of Women. Let Mubarak Chant of Reform.
The gathering started by an opening note from the organizers by Aida Seif Eldawla, a solidarity message from Muslim brotherhood representative Jihan el-Halafawy, a visioning and definition of what is the public space by Heba Raouf, different testimonies of Women who witnessed brutalities and sexual harassments on the referendum day in Cairo, testimonies from women of Arish on the mass arrests following the Taba bombings, a female farmer deprived access to her land, an eye-witness to the killing of the protester Tarek Ghannam in a Muslim brotherhood protest, and testimony of a wife of a worker in Asbestos factory.
However, the most brutal was the story of the killing and humiliation of Nefisa El Marakby in Sarando village, located in the Beheira province. Let Mubarak's wife chant of enhancing women participation.
With contributions and ideas from all participants, the gathering agreed to establish a women-for-democracy movement under the slogan "The Street is Ours". Participants subscribed to constitute the base of the movement and a launching meeting is to be expected soon. Men also signed up soliciting with women.
The meeting concluded with a performance by the talented band Habayebna meaning 'our beloved', singing the old ever inspiring and mobilizing songs of the leftist poet Ahmed Fouad Negm and the late singer and composer Sheikh Imam. A duet who inspired political movements and student demonstrations back in the sixties and seventies, and who also produced more songs behind prison bars than in the streets. Songs that have never been officially available, yet are at the heart and recorded music collection of every activist or even politically interested Egyptian.
Finally everyone was singing the other famous Salah Jahin song "The street is ours".
The street is ours
And those other people do not belong to us
They are selfish people
Stranded in their places
They do not belong to us
The street is Ours