Egypt's big struggle obscures all the little battles

While Egypt wages grandiose battles, like what defines democracy, some in the beleaguered country are fighting merely for personal safety.

Christa Case Bryant / The Christian Science Monitor
Fatima Ali, who was a runner-up in the 2010 Miss Arab World contest, says she's fed up with life in Egypt.

While dueling camps of protesters swell the streets of Cairo, Fatima Ali is fighting a different battle.

“It’s a daily war for me to just live my life,” says Ms. Ali, who has been attacked by women in downtown Cairo several times in recent months. “I suffer from harassment, like everyone, and racism, because I’m black. Defending your own thoughts and mind is just hard.”

The women pinned her down and tried to cut her waist-length hair until finally some bystanders rescued her. Ali, who was a runner-up in the 2010 Miss Arab World contest where she represented Sudan, says she tried to defend her right to go to the police and press charges. But she was told at the police station that if she went through with the case nothing would happen, and she could even go to jail.

“I like to participate in the society, but I feel like the society doesn’t give back anything but harm,” says Ali, who participated in both the 2011 protests against former president Hosni Mubarak and the June 30 protests against now-deposed President Mohamed Morsi. “So I’ve had enough actually.”

She is not alone. Many Egyptians feel the streets have become less safe since Mr. Mubarak was ousted, and the situation is getting worse. Robberies in particular are on the rise, with men on motor scooters routinely grabbing women's handbags as they ride by – even in broad daylight and in Cairo's toniest neighborhoods.

Ali sees the upheavals of the past 2-1/2 years as part of an uprising, but not a real revolution. That will take another decade or two, she says.

“For me, I’m waiting for the big fight between the military and the Islamists – between Egypt and the Islamists,” she corrects herself. “I’m just one random person who hopes for this country to achieve democracy.”

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