TIME Behind the Photos

How Photographers Are Trying to Put a Face on Europe’s Migrant Crisis

"I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person”

European leaders are grappling with what’s being called one of the worst migrant and refugee crises in two generations. On Thursday, in a hastily formed summit in Brussels called after an estimated 800 people died in a capsizing off Libya while en route to Europe, leaders pledged new support to cap the rising death toll in the Mediterranean. But aid organizations and humanitarian officials said Europe is still “lagging far behind” of what’s realistically needed to ease the tragedy.

The crisis along the Mediterranean’s coastlines, from Libya to Morocco and Greece to Italy, is not new. Photographers have worked over the last decade to raise awareness as conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have displaced millions. Last June, one image crystallized the scale of this movement. Shot by Italian photographer Massimo Sestini aboard a helicopter taking part in Mare Nostrum, an Italian-led search and rescue operation largely funded by the European Union and abandoned late last year, it showed one boat with hundreds of people looking up, waving their arms. “You could see their desperation,” Sestini said last year. “And, concurrently, their happiness at being saved.”

The photograph, which TIME named one of the top 10 images of 2014, went on to win a World Press Photo award, but it told only one part of a much larger story.

“The only way to really tell the story is to spend time with them in their home countries, see how they live, learn why they leave and then just go with them on their way,” says Daniel Etter, a German photographer, who has documented migrants in northern Africa and across Europe. He called that “almost impossible” to do. Security risks, travel obstacles and financial barriers get in the way, leaving most photographers unable to build the kind of all-encompassing narrative that could help people understand the true nature of the crisis.

Some photographers have attempted to piece together the stories of migrants who risk their lives on these journeys. Alixandra Fazzina, a photographer with Noor, followed Somali migrants’ arduous trip across the Gulf of Aden in search of a better future in her book A Million Shillings, published in 2010. One in 20 who attempted the crossing lost their lives, their bodies washing up on Yemen’s shore.

She wanted to go deeper, she says, than the “small paragraph you find in a newspaper detailing the number of people that have died… I wanted to find out why they were making the journey. I wanted to find out why these people were willing to put their lives into the hands of smugglers and traffickers? Why would somebody do that?”

Olivier Jobard, a French photographer who followed a Cameroonian man’s trek to France, seeks similar answers. “What’s bothering me when we’re talking about immigration is that we often associate these people with ghosts and shadows,” he says. “They are not human in our minds.”

Italian photographer Alessandro Penso, who has been following migrants around Europe, focusing on hotspots like Greece, Italy and Malta, says he seeks moments of spontaneity to expose the humanity of his subjects.”There are simple gestures and habits in daily life that, as banal as they can seem to our eyes, hide the simple truth that we are all humans and vulnerable.”

Humanizing the people making these dangerous and harrowing journeys is important, Penso and his colleagues argue, especially when photography can lead to misconceptions. Cases in point are the widely published photographs of “hordes” of people scaling border fences in Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the edge of northern Morocco. “[When] people see these images,” says Santi Palacios, an Associated Press photographer who has taken such pictures, “they [think] we’ve been invaded.”

The people portrayed in these images are often seen shirtless and shouting, Jobard says, deliberately assuming a provocative stance. “They actually choose to behave like ‘wild animals’ in these situations—to impress or to scare people because it’s a real battle to get in [Melilla]. Of course, that also does them disservice.”

Once they’ve made it over the fence, he says, the contrast is striking. “They dress up, they take care of their appearances.” Last year, he shadowed a man named Hassan Adam from the Ivory Coast, who spent hours on one of these fences, alone. His friends had made it across to Melilla, successfully avoiding the police forces, but Adam was handcuffed, beaten and sent back to Morocco. Jobard tracked him down, months later, after he had finally made it across. “I told his story,” he says. “I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person.”

For all of those who made it over the fence, or past border patrols or across the Mediterranean, there are untold thousands who lost their lives in the search for a new or better one. In October, Italian photographer Francesco Zizola dived 59 meters to photograph the wreckage of a boat that had carried some 500 people, and now rests at the bottom of the Mediterranean. He sought to convey the vastness of the tragedy that had occurred one year before, when 360 people lost their lives.

“I wanted to show to everybody that our comfortable, bourgeois homes could turn—as if in a nightmare—into that cabin with the red curtain, which I photographed inside the sunken ship,” he says. “That cabin is the tomb of our collective conscience and a memento of our indifference.”

Alice Gabriner and Mikko Takkunen edited this photo essay. With reporting by Lucia De Stefani, a contributor to TIME LightBox.

Andrew Katz is a News Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @katz. Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

TIME Egypt

Court Sentences Ousted Egypt President to 20 Years in Prison

Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in Cairo, Egypt on May 8, 2014.
Tarek el-Gabbas—AP Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in Cairo on May 8, 2014

Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi will face 20 years in prison over the killing of protesters in 2012

(CAIRO) — An Egyptian criminal court has sentenced ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to 20 years in prison over the killing of protesters in 2012, the first verdict to be issued against the country’s first elected leader.

The Cairo Criminal Court issued the verdict Tuesday as Morsi and other defendants in the case stood in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom at Egypt’s national police academy.

The case stems from violence outside the presidential palace in December 2012. Morsi’s supporters attacked opposition protesters, sparking clashes that killed at least 10 people.

Morsi faces several other trials along with thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members following the military overthrowing him in 2013. He has been held at a high-security prison near the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

TIME Egypt

Former Egyptian President Faces Death Penalty

Mohammed Morsi
Tarek el-Gabbas—AP Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, May 8, 2014.

Former President Mohamed Morsi will be judged and sentenced on Tuesday

Mohamed Morsi, once the elected president of Egypt, could be sentenced to death on Tuesday at the conclusion of a trial that has been one of the symbols of a state clampdown on the Islamists who once governed the country.

The former leader’s predicament is a sign of the sweeping reversal of fortunes suffered by his Muslim Brotherhood movement since he was removed from power by the military.

Morsi came to power in the country’s first election following the 2011 revolution that ended three decades of autocratic rule by President Hosni Mubarak. After a deeply polarizing year in office and a huge wave of protests against him, he was deposed by the armed forces in July 2013.

The military-backed government that replaced Morsi launched a crackdown on his supporters, producing the worst season of political violence in Egypt’s contemporary history. The Muslim Brotherhood was later designated a terrorist organization and its leaders jailed and placed on trial.

Following his removal from power, Morsi and several other former officials disappeared, their whereabouts unknown for weeks. Morsi resurfaced in in court in November 2013. When asked to identify himself, he told the court, “I am Dr. Mohamed Morsi and I am the President of the republic.”

In spite of Morsi’s defiance, the Brotherhood as an organization was sent into the political wilderness. Government and media alike portrayed them as terrorists, blaming them for a recent upsurge in armed attacks. Repulsed by Morsi’s own tone-deaf and autocratic tenure in power, erstwhile political allies abandoned them.

Several other Brotherhood leaders have been sentenced to death, including the group’s spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, who was convicted in a mass trial of 183 people for plotting violence following Morsi’s removal.

“The government is using death sentences as part of an elaborate signaling game in its talks with the Brotherhood, essentially holding some of the group’s officials as hostages to pressure the Brotherhood into submitting to the government’s terms,” said Aziz El-Kaissouni, a political analyst and former visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Morsi would be the trump card in that process; sentencing him to death wouldn’t leave much more room for escalation,” he said.

The former president is currently a defendant in three separate trials: one for spying, one for escaping prison during the 2011 uprising, and one for inciting the killing of demonstrators in 2012. The verdict and sentence are expected in the third trial on Tuesday.

The charges stem from violence that unfolded outside the presidential palace in Cairo in December 2012, when plainclothes Brotherhood supporters clashed with demonstrators. The incident marked a marked a political turning point. Many Egyptians saw the clashes as a troubling sign of the breakdown of public order.

Now Morsi is set to be sentenced by a court that has played a key role in the state campaign against the Brotherhood. Hundreds of Egyptians, including numerous alleged Brotherhood supporters, have been sentenced to death in mass trials. However any death sentence is unlikely to be carried out immediately.

“The judiciary is now extremely politicized and is used as a tool by the current government,” said Samer Shehata, an Egypt scholar at the University of Oklahoma. “We need no further confirmation,” he said, “that political space has closed considerably in Egypt and the country is not democratizing.”

Since the 2013 military takeover, Egypt has been shaken by an increase in insurgent attacks that have claimed the lives of hundreds of members of the security forces, particularly in the north Sinai region. Government officials blame the Brotherhood for the violence, but the organization insists that it is peaceful and has publically condemned some attacks.

In response to the expected verdict, The Brotherhood called for demonstrations on Tuesday. “The Egyptian Revolution is at a critical moment where the military junta, having failed to halt the growing protest and peaceful resistance movement, is endeavoring to push the country into a spiral of chaos using all tactics of repression, murder and torture,” the group said in a statement issued from its London office.

“The Rubicon was crossed with the mass killings of August 2013,” said Kaissouni, “Since then, we’ve been witnessing the inexorable transformation of Islamism in Egypt, manifest in the growing irrelevance of organized, nonviolent Islamist opposition, and the concurrent rise of Islamic militancy.”

TIME Egypt

Egyptians Question President’s Decision to Go to War in Yemen

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi meeting with his Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, the chief of intelligence and military officials in Cairo on April 16, 2015.
Fadi Fares—AFP/Getty Images President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi meeting with his Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, left, the chief of intelligence and military officials in Cairo on April 16, 2015

Egypt's last foray into Yemen in the 1960s was a disaster and the country is beset by domestic problems

A public debate is unfolding in Egypt about whether to expand the country’s role in military invention against Houthi rebels in Yemen, creating a political predicament that could undermine the Saudi-led campaign to support the government.

Egypt said it would join the coalition that is bombing Yemen to combat the Houthis and the forces loyal to Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Egypt sent naval vessels to Yemen’s coast and Egyptian officials have said that a ground assault was planned.

But now there are signs that public anxiety is creating a dilemma for Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who must balance the concerns of a public worried about domestic security and social problems, and the pull of Saudi Arabia, a close ally that has donated billions to Egypt’s government.

Looming large in the public consciousness is the legacy of Egypt’s invasion of Yemen in 1962 and five years of fighting in which more than 10,000 Egyptian soldiers died.

The war is remembered as a disaster which partially contributed to Egypt’s 1967 defeat by Israel in the Six-Day War. In 1967, Egypt had some 70,000 troops in Yemen and many Egyptians see Yemen as Egypt’s Vietnam.

The memory of Egypt’s war in Yemen has been resurrected in recent weeks by skeptical pundits, newspaper columnists, and political parties who oppose sending troops.

Among the critics of intervention is Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, a commentator and confidant of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser who ordered the 1962 invasion. “We shouldn’t jump to war,” he said on TV this month. “Yemen is a sleeping volcano south of the Arabian Peninsula. If it erupts, it will sweep the entire region.”

President al-Sisi responded to critics on April 4, saying that Egypt’s current role in the Saudi-led campaign could not be compared with the 1962 invasion, saying he cared for “every drop of blood and every son of this country.”

The debate could complicate the calculations of Saudi officials. At the outset of the assault on Yemen, Saudi Arabia touted the participation of 10 countries in the coalition. That message was dealt a setback last week when Pakistan’s parliament voted against joining the intervention. The Pakistani decision, in turn, was front-page news in Egypt.

“This all puts the Saudi position in quite a quandary, if they intended something far more muscular, because they were clearly trying to rely on subcontractors, so to speak,” said Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. He added the Saudis are now faced with the prospect that “unless they were willing to put their own army on the ground, then they have no ground option.”

Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud met President al-Sisi on Tuesday. They discussed the Yemen crisis and the two agreed on “a major strategic military maneuver on Saudi territory.” But no announcement was made about a commitment of Egyptian troops to Yemen.

The Yemen debate also comes when Egypt’s military and security forces are battling an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and facing a steady string of bombs and armed attacks in Cairo and other cities. On Sunday alone, 13 people were killed in two separate bomb attacks in north Sinai.

“It’s been a bad couple of days in Sinai, and that magnifies the anxieties, because you’re going off to tend to this foreign engagement at a time when you’ve got perhaps containable but mounting problems at home,” said Michael Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation in New York City.

In Egypt’s polarized political context, some commentators dismiss the concerns about the operation in Yemen as speculation. “It’s very uninformed anxiety because there’s no comparison to the intervention that happened during the glory of the Nasser years,” says Hisham Kassem, the former publisher of the privately owned newspaper al-Masry al-Youm. “None of us is in a position to speak about the military operation itself.”

“Egypt is not really participating,” says retired Egyptian Brigadier General Safwat al-Zayat. “The planning was Saudi-American. Saudi Arabia will decide, with American consultation, who will participate, and at what level.”

Khaled Fahmy, a professor of history at the American University in Cairo, said the current debate in Egypt contrasted with the political situation in Egypt during the last Yemen war in the 1960s

“Back in the ’60s when Nasser sent Egyptian troops to Yemen, no one expressed any anxiety. There was no debate,” he said. “Now in Egypt, in spite of the fact we don’t have a sitting parliament, people are writing. People are talking, so much so that the President had to allay these fears.”

The recent signs of dissent also come in the wake of a sweeping state clampdown on political opponents following the military’s removal of elected President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Morsi’s presidency and his removal left the public deeply divided, with many backing the military.

“This is the kind of situation where they [the state] could face very real public disgruntlement and dissent. There are very few issues that could produce that kind of reaction. This seems like one,” said Hanna. “There has been an interesting level of questioning. That hasn’t been the case in the past year and a half.”

TIME Egypt

Attacks on Troops in Egypt’s Sinai Kill at Least 14

Egyptians gather at the scene following a bombing that struck a main police station in the capital of the northern Sinai province in el-Arish, Egypt on April 12, 2015.
Muhamed Sabry—AP Egyptians gather at the scene following a bombing that struck a main police station in the capital of the northern Sinai province in el-Arish, Egypt on April 12, 2015.

Militants attacked a police station in Sinai and detonated a bomb against an armored vehicle, killing mostly policemen

(EL-ARISH, Egypt) — At least 14 people, mostly Egyptian policemen, were killed Sunday in separate operations when militants attacked a police station in the provincial capital of Egypt’s northern Sinai, and detonated a roadside bomb against a passing armored vehicle, officials said.

Northern Sinai has witnessed a series of complex and successful attacks targeting Egyptian security forces, many of which have been claimed by a local affiliate of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham). Twitter accounts affiliated with the group claimed responsibility for the Sunday attacks.

In the largest of the day’s attacks, a suspected car bomber detonated his vehicle at the entrance of a large police station in el-Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, killing at least six, including five policemen, and injuring several civilians, the Interior Ministry said.

By nightfall, Health Ministry Spokesman Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar in Cairo said at least eight bodies were pulled from the rubble, while 45 people were injured, including some in critical condition.

The blast left a deep crater in the residential area, and damaged several homes nearby. Officials said rescue crews were still searching through the rubble for survivors and the death toll was expected to rise.

The explosion was the second attack Sunday on troops in Sinai. Earlier in the day, six soldiers, including an officer, were killed when a roadside bomb struck their armored vehicle traveling south of el-Arish. In a third smaller attack, militants clashed with soldiers at a mobile checkpoint in Rafah, south of el-Arish, wounding one police officer and two soldiers.

Sunday is Eastern Orthodox Easter in Egypt, and police have been on high alert against attacks.

The attacks took place as Egypt’s defense minister carried out a limited military reshuffle, replacing the commander of the army division responsible for securing northern Sinai.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed el-Shahat, who only commanded Egypt’s second field army for about a year, was promoted to head of military intelligence; el-Shahat’s deputy, Maj. Gen. Nasser el-Assi, will replace him.

In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the Interior Ministry —which oversees the police — said a suicide bomber in a small truck drove through a checkpoint outside the police station, causing guards to open fire before the vehicle exploded. The ministry said five policemen and a civilian were killed in the explosion.

An official said the dead include two ranking police officers and two conscripts.

The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Residents say the explosion outside one of four main police stations in el-Arish shook the surrounding district. One woman said her house walls cracked. Cars outside the station were on fire.

Abu Mohammed, a resident who lives near the police station, said body parts littered the area after the huge explosion, which also split an armored car into two. He said the suicide bomber kept on driving past sand mounds and a cement blast wall securing the station — all despite coming under heavy fire from the guards.

“Those at the other end of town heard the explosion. It was humongous. It terrified us,” Abu Mohammed said, using an alias for fear of reprisals from the militants. “I am not afraid of them. I only fear for those around me. We will not leave our town until we liberate it from those terrorists.”

The new army commander in the area, el-Assi, inherits the simmering Sinai-based Islamic insurgency that continues to target army soldiers and police officers despite an intensive military campaign. The attacks surged following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The largest Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, pledged allegiance to ISIS last year and now refers to itself as the group’s Sinai Province.

Earlier this month, the IS affiliate in Sinai killed at least 16 soldiers and three civilians and kidnapped a conscript. On Friday they posted a video showing the kidnapped soldier pleading with Egyptians not to join the army before being shot to death.

The reshuffle in military leadership also included the commander of the Egyptian navy at a time when the navy could begin playing an increasingly prominent role, because of the Yemeni crisis. Egyptian warships are already deployed off the coast of Yemen to secure the strategically vital Bab el-Mandab strait — the gateway to the Suez Canal.

Egypt is currently a main member of the Saudi-led military coalition launching airstrikes against Shiite rebels who have conquered the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and forced out the Western-backed president. Egyptian military leaders have repeatedly stated their willingness to commit ground troops, if necessary, to the operation.

TIME Egypt

American Sentenced to Life in Prison in Egypt After Participating in Protests

Ohio State graduate Mohamed Soltan is being held in an Egyptian prison.
Courtesy of Hanaa Soltan Ohio State graduate Mohamed Soltan is being held in an Egyptian prison.

Mohamed Soltan, 27, was arrested in 2013

An Egyptian court has sentenced a 27-year-old American citizen to life in prison.

Mohamed Soltan, a graduate of Ohio State University, was arrested in 2013 after Egyptian security forces stormed a sit-in protest of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Soltan was shot during the violent break-up of the protest, and was taken into custody along with his father, who was an active political opposition figure within the Muslim Brotherhood.

Soltan faced terrorism-related charges, including belonging to the now banned-Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news. Throughout the demonstrations, Soltan served as media activist for the sit-in protests and as a…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME On Our Radar

Photojournalist Moises Saman Receives Guggenheim Fellowship

Photojournalist wins prestigious fellowship

Magnum photojournalist Moises Saman was about to step out to dinner in Barcelona last night when he heard some very pleasant news: he had just been awarded the prestigious 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Awarded annually since 1925 “to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions” the Guggenheim is one of the most prestigious awards of its kind.

Saman says he had long known of the Fellowship, but assumed it was geared towards topics such as “poetry and science,” he tells TIME. “I knew there’s a photography element but it tends to be fine art.”

Nevertheless, Moises submitted a photojournalism project on the Arab Spring—part of which is shown in this gallery. Shot from 2011 to the present day across Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Kurdistan, Saman says he “felt really strongly about this body of work and felt it was very relevant to the times.”

Saman plans to use the funds to continue the Arab Spring project. Next step? He’s going to Kurdistan in May.

Moises Saman is a Spanish-American member of Magnum Photos and winner of awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year and the Overseas Press Club.

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.

TIME A Year In Space

See Egypt’s Pyramids From Space

The pyramids of Giza in Egypt, seen from space.
Samantha Cristoforetti—European Space Agency The pyramids of Giza in Egypt, (center left) seen from space.

Look for the triangular shadows

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took a photo of the famous pyramids of Giza in Egypt from her current home on the International Space Station. Follow her on Twitter @AstroSamantha.

Astronaut Scott Kelly, along with Russian Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Scott Kelly joined Cristoforetti aboard the space station on March 28th. Follow the mission here.

TIME Military

U.S. Resumes Weapons Flow to Egypt

An Egyptian Air Force F-16 fighter jet flies low over thousands of anti-government protesters gathered at Tahrir square in Cairo
Yannis Behrakis / Reuters A U.S.-built Egyptian F-16 flies low over thousands of anti-government protesters in Tahrir square in Cairo in January 2011.

But the White House announcement wasn't only about weapons

President Obama on Tuesday lifted his nearly two-year ban on shipping American weapons to Egypt, a restriction imposed after its military kicked out its elected government in 2013.

Obama relayed news of the move in a telephone call to Egyptian President (and former Army general) Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. It will allow for the shipment of 12 F-16 aircraft, 20 Harpoon missiles and up to 125 M-1 Abrams tank upgrades. The White House added that the Administration will continue to ask Congress to approve $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt.

CRSU.S. aid to Egypt is overwhelmingly for new weapons, designated “FMF” (“Foreign Military Financing”).

The resumption of arms shipments to Egypt is in keeping with the growth of U.S. arms sales abroad. Major American weapons exports grew by 23% between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said on March 16. “The USA has long seen arms exports as a major foreign policy and security tool,” Aude Fleurant, of SIPRI, said when the group released its annual arms-sales accounting. “But in recent years exports are increasingly needed to help the U.S. arms industry maintain production levels at a time of decreasing U.S. military expenditure.”

The White House announcement wasn’t only about weapons. “President Obama also reiterated U.S. concerns about Egypt’s continued imprisonment of non-violent activists and mass trials,” it said in a statement. And, as the Administration drafts proposed legislation to resume military aid to Egypt, it “will not make the so-called ‘democracy certification’ in that legislation,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

In other words, Egypt remains little more than a military junta now wearing civilian clothes, and the White House won’t pretend otherwise.

All this is what diplomats call a return to the status quo ante—the way things were before. Obama is eager to defeat the militants of Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, defeat Islamic fundamentalist uprisings in Libya and Yemen and tamp down Iran’s ambitions—nuclear and otherwise. If he, and the U.S. government, have to cozy up to coup-plotters to achieve that goal, that’s realpolitik.

Cairo has recently suggested it may send ground troops into Yemen to bolster air strikes being carried out there by Saudi Arabia against the Iranian-backed Houthis rebels. Obama is now willing to resume the arms flow to Egypt in hopes of improving relations between the two nations as they join with other countries in a bid to restore stability to the war-racked region.

After nearly 40 years of such aid, the record is not reassuring. “Since the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty, the United States has provided Egypt with large amounts of military assistance,” the Congressional Research Service reported earlier this month. “U.S. policy makers have routinely justified aid to Egypt as an investment in regional stability, built primarily on long-running military cooperation and on sustaining the treaty—principles that are supposed to be mutually reinforcing.”

TIME motherhood

Egyptian Woman Who Lived as a Man to Find Work Honored with Motherhood Award

Sisa Abu Daooh, a woman who passed for a man for decades while working as a shoeshine, in Luxor, Egypt, on March 25, 2015.
Bryan Denton–The New York Times/Redux Sisa Abu Daooh, a woman who passed for a man for decades while working as a shoeshine, in Luxor, Egypt, on March 25, 2015.

Sisa Abu Daooh dressed as a man for 42 years

An Egyptian woman who was forced to live as a man in order to support her daughter was recently awarded the country’s highest award for motherhood.

Sisa Abu Daooh has been dressing as a man for 42 years in order to find work after her husband died. “I worked in Aswan wearing pants and a galabeya,” she told the New York Times. “If I hadn’t, no one would have let me work.”

Daooh was forced to dress as a man not as an expression of gender identity, but because otherwise she would have been unable to find work. In the early 1970s, when her husband’s death left Daooh and her daughter destitute, it was extremely difficult for women to find paid work. For seven years, she worked as a manual laborer making less than a dollar a day before finding less physically demanding work. She now works as a shoe-shiner.

When Daooh’s husband died, it was almost unheard of for Egyptian women to work, but even today, very few Egyptian women participate in the labor force—only 26%, compared to 79% of men, according to the World Economic Forum. If women and men participated equally, Egypt’s GDP would increase by 34%, according to an analysis conducted by the Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Between the lack of economic opportunity, the prevalence of female genital mutilation, and the near-universal experience sexual harassment (over 99% of women say they’ve been harassed,) Thompson-Reuters voted Egypt the worst place in the Arab world to be a woman.

[h/t New York Times]

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