Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Egyptian women's rights advocate warns of military rule

The first woman to head an Egyptian political party has expressed concern that a return to military rule could threaten democracy in a country roiled by three years of turbulence. Hala Shukrallah, a Copt who now leads the liberal Al-Dostour Party, told AFP the failure of democratic groups to throw up a civilian leadership was benefitting the military, and could also help the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood make a comeback.

"We are asking questions regarding the entrance of the military in a democratic election," said Shukrallah, 59, when questioned about the possible election of army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as Egypt's next president."We have the very specific opinion that there is a danger, that this might infringe on the democratic process," she said in an interview at her party headquarters in central Cairo. Sisi, the most popular political figure in Egypt after he ousted Mohamed Morsy, the country's first freely elected and civilian head of state, said Tuesday he "cannot turn his back" on demands that he run for president. He has yet to formally announce his candidacy, but his supporters say he is certain to win the vote.

Fiery activism

Shukrallah, who was educated in Britain, was elected in February to head Al-Dostour, which was formed in 2012 by former vice-president and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei. Nobel peace laureate ElBaradei quit the military-installed government in August after security forces violently dispersed two sit-ins of Morsy's supporters in Cairo that killed hundreds. Shukrallah, a sociologist who was arrested several times in the 1970s and 1980s for her fiery student activism, has helped found civil society groups which fight for women's rights.

Her election has been hailed as a positive "change" in Egypt, where Copts — the largest Christian community in the Middle East — and women in general have traditionally faced discrimination."Women have been very much in the forefront of (the) revolution and I think that has been clear not only to the people who were part of the revolution... but it has been very clear to the rest of society," she said, suggesting her election reflected the "shifts" in the society.

Source: Africa Review

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