Millions gathered today in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in a nearly unprecedented act of defiance. Popular protests that began just a week ago have accelerated into a movement not seen in a generation, calling for an end to the presidency of Hosni Mubarak.
Just two weeks ago, protests in Tunisia forced former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to step down. Now, protests in Egypt are building pressure on President Mubarak to do the same. MADRE stands with the people of Egypt as they demand their right to a democratic government and with the women of Egypt who are playing an essential role in these protests.
US-backed Mubarak assumed the presidency in 1981, winning every so-called election since by as much as 98 percent of the votes. In the past thirty years, Egyptians have been denied the right to fair elections, have faced endemic corruption, and have endured torture at the hands of the state police.
In response to the ongoing protests in Egypt, President Barack Obama responded by urging peace and calling for reforms in the country. Compare that tepid request to the demands of the millions of protesters: an end to the regime of Mubarak and the construction of democracy. For three decades, they have lived under an authoritarian regime backed by the US. Since 1979, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US foreign aid behind Israel. Now, tear gas canisters stamped with "Made in the USA" are being lobbed at protesters.
In the midst of it all are Egyptian women. Estimates have shown that between 20 and 50 percent of protesters are women, a significant increase from past mobilizations. One woman, who organized a national strike in 2008 via her Facebook page, described the atmosphere of unity, saying, "We're all Egyptians." In an interview, Egyptian feminist and long-time friend of MADRE Nawal El Saadawi said, "Women and girls are beside boys in the streets. They are�calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy."
MADRE stands with these women – the path to a democratic and just future for Egypt must include women's active political participation. MADRE condemns the material and rhetorical US support for repressive regimes throughout the region and supports Egyptians in their calls for democracy.