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In Egypt's Tahrir Square, women attacked at rally on International Women's Day

After helping to overthrow Mubarak, Egyptian women – and some men – demonstrated today in favor of giving women more of a voice in building Egypt's future.

By Correspondent / March 8, 2011

An Egyptian protester argues with a man as hundreds of women marched to Cairo's central Tahrir Square to celebrate International Women's Day on Tuesday. A protest by hundreds of Egyptian women demanding an end to sexual harassment and equal rights has turned violent when men verbally abused and shoved the demonstrators, telling them that they should go home.

AP

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Cairo

A demonstration urging Egypt to give women a voice in building its future was attacked by a group of men Tuesday, delivering a stinging slap to the women who helped propel Egypt's uprising.

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“We fought side by side with men during the revolution, and now we’re not represented,” said Passat Rabie, a young woman who came with friends, after men aggressively dispersed the protest. “I thought Egypt was improving, that it was becoming a better country. If it’s changing in a way that’s going to exclude women, then what’s the point? Where’s the democracy?”

Hastily organized on Facebook to coincide with International Women's Day, the protest was billed as a "Million Woman" march. But in fact, it attracted only about 200 demonstrators, mostly women but some men as well. The violent opposition they faced suggests that Egyptian women must fight their own revolution to achieve equal rights.

'Go wash clothes! This is against Islam!'

The demonstrators, who gathered in Tahrir Square – the epicenter of the revolution – had much to complain about: The military council ruling the country until new elections are held failed to appoint a single woman to the committee tasked with drafting constitutional amendments. One of the proposed constitutional amendments implies that the office of presidency is limited to men by saying that a president cannot be married to a non-Egyptian woman. And the only woman in Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s new government is from Mubarak’s government.

But almost immediately, they were outnumbered and beset upon by men who gathered. Some of the men were from the protesters' encampment in the middle of the square.

Dozens of women engaged in arguments with the men, who said that women had enough rights already; that now was not the time to demand inclusion; or that Islam does not allow a woman to become president. Some of the men were polite; many were aggressive. Soon, a large group gathered in front of the protest, shouting it down with insults. A sheikh from Al Azhar was hoisted on mens’ shoulders, chanting against the women.

“Go home, go wash clothes,” yelled some of the men. “You are not married; go find a husband.” Others said, “This is against Islam.” To the men demonstrating with the women, they yelled “Shame on you!”

Suddenly, the men decided the women had been there long enough. Yelling, they rushed aggressively upon the protest, pushing violently through the rows of women. The women scattered. Eyewitnesses said they saw three women being chased by the crowd. A surge of men followed them, and Army officers fired shots into the air to make the men retreat.

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