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]

TIME Egypt

An Egyptian Activist Shot by Police Died Because She Was ‘Very Thin,’ Official Claims

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was killed by police in January

A spokesman for Egypt’s Medical Forensics Authority claimed in a broadcast Saturday that an activist shot by police in January near Cairo’s Tahrir Square succumbed to her injuries because she was underweight.

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 31, died from close-range bird-shot pellets in a senseless killing that shocked the world after photographs of her death appeared in international media. A police officer is to face manslaughter charges for her death, reports the New York Times.

According to the Times, medical official Hisham Abdel Hamid said, “She was very thin. She did not have any percentage of fat. So the small pellets penetrated very easily, and four or five out of all the pellets that penetrated her body — these four or five pellets were able to penetrate her heart and lungs, and these are the ones that caused her death.”

MORE: Egyptian Activist Shot and Killed During Peaceful Protest in Cairo

Hamid argued that a man marching next to al-Sabbagh, who was also struck by police fire, survived the shots because he had more body fat.

The theory has elicited skepticism from activist groups. “These sorts of ridiculous claims just add a thick layer of absurdity to the government’s endless record of killings and impunity,” said Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson.

[NYT]

TIME Egypt

Egypt Court Sentences 14 Islamists to Death

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie in Cairo, Egypt, May 18, 2014.
Ahmed Gamil—AP Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie in Cairo on May 18, 2014

Egypt has sentenced to death Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and 13 other members of the banned party

(CAIRO) — Egypt’s official news agency says a criminal court has sentenced 14 people, including the leader of the country’s banned Muslim Brotherhood, to death.

The Giza Criminal Court issued its decision on Monday, however the court set an April 11 date to formally issue the ruling after consulting with the country’s grand mufti; the mufti reviews all death penalty cases, but his ruling is not binding.

The case is rooted in violence that swept the country after the military-led ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, whose supporters set up large protest encampments in Cairo.

Security forces violently ended the sit-ins, killing hundreds. In retaliation, many police stations and churches came under attack by alleged Morsi supporters. The court convicted Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and 13 others of orchestrating the violence.

TIME Libya

ISIS Allies Try to Cut off Libya’s Oil Revenue

A fighter from Misrata shouts to his comrades as they move to fight ISIS militants near Sirte March 15, 2015.
Goran Tomasevic—Reuters A fighter from Misrata shouts to his comrades as they move to fight ISIS militants near Sirte March 15, 2015.

The militants are trying to undermine opponents as the country descends further into chaos

A series of attacks by militants linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Libya’s oilfields is threatening to further undermine chances of stability in a country gripped by a multi-sided armed conflict.

ISIS, the militant group that took control of parts of Syria and Iraq last year, has found footholds in Libya as a result of a power vacuum engendered by civil war. Now the group’s own attacks on the country’s crucial oil infrastructure are denying resources to its rivals and creating conditions that could help it expand.

“The Islamic State is trying to use the disunity of Libyans, and the fact that there is fighting going on between rival armed groups to target Libya’s only source of income, Libya’s national wealth represented by the oil facilities,” said Mohamed Eljarh a Libya-based fellow with the Atlantic Council think tank.

“By attacking the oil sector in Libya, they will ensure that any unity government will be deprived of much of the funds they need to buy the weapons they need to face this group.” he said.

The attacks forced the national oil company to shut down operations at 11 oilfields earlier in March. In one assault on the Ghani oilfield, the militants killed at least nine people and took several workers as hostages, including four Filipinos, an Austrian, a Bangladeshi, a Czech, a Ghanaian, and one unidentified person. Libya’s overall oil production dropped to a reported 325,000 barrels per day in January, down from 1.7 million per day before the 2011 uprising.

Oil, along with the central bank and other elements of state infrastructure, has also become a focus of conflict between the warring parties, who are divided into two broad camps aligned to two competing parliaments, one in the capital Tripoli and the other — internationally recognized — in Tobruk. Powerful militias from the city of Misrata recently sent some 3,000 men in a bid to take control of the oil port at Sidra, currently controlled by forces of former rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran.

ISIS-aligned militias have also emerged as a rogue factor in Libya’s larger political conflict in which two rival governments and their allied militias are locked in an ongoing battle for control. Neither of the two main political groupings has been able to strike a decisive blow against the other. Neither has been able to dislodge ISIS from its local bases.

Among those strongholds, the city of Sirte has emerged as a flashpoint in the current crisis. ISIS controls key neighborhoods in the city. Its artillery-mounted pickup trucks patrol the streets and its black flag is flying over a large convention center, according to Claudia Gazzini, a Libya-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Sirte and its environs is also where ISIS militants kidnapped at least 20 of the 21 Coptic Christians whose execution they announced in a graphic online video in February. The city is also thought to be the base for attacks on the oilfields in the desert to the south.

In one such raid in February, gunmen killed the guards on the perimeter of an oilfield, then rounded up the workers, lecturing them on the Islamic State’s notion of “true Islam,” according to officials who briefed Gazzini. The attackers threatened the facility’s manager: Tell no one of this for six hours, enough time to allow the attackers to escape. Then they left, taking everything they could: Cars, equipment, guns.

Subsequent attacks have unfolded in a similar style. In each raid, Gazzini says, “They’ve gone in, looted, and gone out.”

“These are targets of opportunity for them, given the proximity to Sirte. It’s a strategy of disruption,” said Frederic Wehrey, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “They’re trying to raise their stature through these spectacular attacks and increase visibility and attract recruits.”

The ISIS presence has been a source of mounting concern for the militias in nearby Misrata. On March 14, Misratan forces clashed with ISIS fighters in Sirte, reportedly killing 25 members of the local ISIS affiliate.

“The Misratan commanders told me we’re going to have to confront this threat eventually,” said Wehrey in an interview last week. “They were reluctant to go in with force because of tribal blowback, that this would trigger some kind of tribal feud.”

Meanwhile, the identity of the militants joining ISIS is a subject of dispute among Libya’s factions. Many in the broad camp allied with Tripoli assert that ISIS includes supporters of the former regime of Muammar Qaddafi, which was brought down in an armed, NATO-supported uprising in 2011.The ICG’s Gazzini says there is evidence to suggest that some Qaddafi loyalists may have joined forces with ISIS. Unlike some armed groups that take a hard line against members of the old regime, ISIS has reportedly projected a message in Libya that anyone is welcome to join, provided they pledge loyalty and accept the group’s doctrine.

“Maybe some are faking it, but also the IS rhetoric appeals to a group of former regime officials who somehow felt persecuted in these last few years,” says Gazzini. “The message Dashis [ISIS] might have been projecting out was that of acceptance as long as they repent for their sins.”

TIME Egypt

Bomb Blast in Downtown Cairo Kills 1, Wounds 10 People

An masked policemen stands at the site of a bombing in front of the Egyptian High Court, in Cairo, Egypt, March 2, 2015
Amr Nabil—AP A masked policeman stands at the site of a bombing in front of the Egyptian High Court, in Cairo on March 2, 2015

A little-known group took responsibility for the attack

(CAIRO) — A midday bomb blast in a boulevard in downtown Cairo killed one person and wounded 10 on Monday, the health ministry said. Shortly afterward, a little-known group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bomb was hidden under a car parked near the High Court – the country’s highest criminal court – and went off in Cairo’s Ramses neighborhood. The area is very crowded, with dozens of street vendors selling their ware on stalls set up on the asphalt. Nearby are several bus stops, a railway station and a subway station.

Egyptian private The Seventh Day TV broadcast footage of the site, showing hundreds of onlookers around cars with smashed windows and blood on the pavement. Police cordoned off the area and state TV later reported that a second bomb was dismantled before it went off.

The Interior Ministry and the Health Ministry earlier had said no one was killed, despite a previous state TV report mentioning that one person died. The wounded included seven policemen, the health ministry said.

Egypt has seen a wave of attacks, mostly targeting the country’s security forces, since the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. A Sinai-based militant group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State extremists fighting in Syria and Iraq, has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings and larger attacks. Other groups have claimed responsibility for attacks carried out by small, homemade explosive devices that caused few casualties.

A group calling itself “Revolutionary Punishment” claimed responsibility on its Twitter account for Monday’s attack, saying they targeted a police checkpoint. The group is believed to mostly consist of Islamist youths seeking revenge for the ongoing crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group has been branded as a terrorist organization and its members are either underground, on the run or in jail, awaiting trial.

The attacks have raised fears ahead of a major economic conference in Egypt later this month, aimed at attracting foreign investment.

On Sunday, a bomb went off near a police station in the southern city of Aswan, killing two civilians and wounding a soldier and four others.

TIME Egypt

Egypt Court Declares Hamas ‘Terrorist Organization’

Palestinian members of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, display weapons during a military parade marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City
Suhaib Salem—Reuters Palestinian members of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, display their weapons during a military parade marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City Dec. 14, 2014. The Palestinian group has been declared a terrorist organization by an Egyptian court.

The Palestinian group once enjoyed support of Egypt's deposed Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt’s state news agency is reporting that a Cairo court has declared Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a “terrorist organization.”

The short report Saturday by MENA said the Court For Urgent Matters, presided over by Judge Mohamed el-Sayed, issued the ruling Saturday. It did not elaborate.

Last month, an Egyptian court banned Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and also designated it a terrorist organization.

The ruling further isolates Hamas, which once found open support under Egypt’s toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Egypt’s new government recently has begun clearing a buffer zone along its border with Gaza in an attempt to destroy a cross-border network of tunnels that Hamas considers a lifeline.

In Gaza, Hamas official Mushir al-Masri condemned the decision and urged Egypt to reverse course.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. It’s time to break up the NSA.

By Bruce Schneier at CNN

2. By prescribing appearances, sororities are contributing to a culture of segregation.

By Clio Chang in U.S. News and World Report

3. In Egypt, the U.S. still values security over human rights.

By the Editorial Board of the Washington Post

4. Bartering for eggs is saving giant turtles in Cambodia.

By Yoeung Sun at Conservation International

5. How does Internet slang work its way into American Sign Language?

By Mike Sheffield, Antwan Duncan and Andrew Strasser in Hopes and Fears

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. For some returning from war, a ‘G.I. bill for farming’ eases the transition home.

By Abby Wendle at Harvest Public Media

2. In Egypt, a class project to fight sexual harassment has grown into a campus-wide movement encouraging women to “Speak Up.”

By Ahmed Fouad in Al-Monitor

3. Your kid’s school is missing the tech revolution, and it’s all your fault.

By Jason Tanz in Wired

4. Community courts focus on rehabilitation and compassion for non-violent offenders.

By Henry Gass in the Christian Science Monitor

5. A new ‘Uber for packages’ service is partnering with Waffle House to build a network of delivery points around the south.

By Amar Toor in the Verge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Egypt

Christians Mourn Their Relatives Beheaded by ISIS

Men mourn over Egyptian Coptic Christians who were captured in Libya and killed by militants affiliated with ISIS, inside the Virgin Mary Church in the village of Al-Aour, Egypt, Feb. 16, 2015.
Hassan Ammar—AP Village residents inside the Virgin Mary Church in al-Our, Egypt, on Feb. 16, 2015, mourn Egyptian Coptic Christians who were captured in Libya and killed by ISIS militants

The 21 men have been declared martyrs by the Coptic Church

In the yard of the Coptic church in the village of al-Our, dozens listen to the words of a preacher speaking into a microphone. His words rise and fall as he says: “The life we live is but numbered days that will quickly pass, the Bible says.”

His words were intended to comfort a congregation mourning 13 of its members who were among the 21 men slaughtered on a Mediterranean beach in a video released last week by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). Al-Our is in Egypt’s Minya province, 150 miles south of Cairo, a farm community of some 6,000 Muslims and Christians living in brick, mud and stone houses. Following the spectacular murders of its residents, the town was thrust to the center of the crisis emanating from Libya, where ISIS has established a foothold in the chaos of a civil war.

“I felt peace knowing that they died as martyrs in the name of Christ,” says Bashir Estefanous Kamel, 32, whose two younger brothers and one cousin were among the victims. Kamel says he watched the video depicting the men’s execution as soon as it was available. “Of course, the first reaction was sadness at being separated from family.”

In Christianity, a person is considered a martyr if they are killed because of their faith. Christian martyrs include many early Christians such as St. Peter and St. Paul and more recent examples are priests and nuns killed in German concentration camps or during the Spanish Civil War. Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up between 10% and 20% of Egypt’s population of 80 million, are among many of the recent Christian martyrs. In two recent attacks by Muslim gunmen and mobs, eight Copts were shot in Nag Hammadi in 2010 and 21 killed in rioting in Kosheh in 2000. The ISIS victims are depicted next to the throne of Jesus on banners, which are suspended inside and outside the church in al-Our.

Like tens of thousands of other Egyptians, Kamel’s brothers, Bishoi Estefanous Kamel, 25, and Samuel Estefanous Kamel, 22, had gone to Libya in search of work they could not find at home. Even in recent years of turmoil, Libya’s oil-based economy continued to draw workers, especially from Egypt’s poorer regions. In al-Our, average residents earn between $3 and $4 a day. “It’s a hard life,” says Bashir Kamel. “If you don’t work all day, you don’t eat at night.”

Both brothers had completed two years of university, earning diplomas in industry and agriculture respectively, but could not find gainful employment in Minya. A few months after completing his mandatory military service, Samuel followed his older brother to Libya, where they worked as laborers in the city of Sirt, living among other Egyptian workers.

In December, the murder of an Egyptian Coptic doctor and his wife in Sirt punctured the workers’ sense of security. According to their older brother, Bishoi and Samuel Kamel had planned to return home to Egypt as soon as possible. Then, on Dec. 29, seven Copts were kidnapped from a minibus taking them back to Egypt. A second group was seized from their lodgings in Sirt days later. Bashir Kamel speculates that members of the first group of hostages disclosed the location of the workers’ housing under torture.

The night of the release of the execution video, the village priest, Father Makar Issa went from house to house in an attempt to comfort the families. “There was wailing in every street, every alleyway,” he says. “People were shocked.”

According to Issa, his congregants’ sorrow gave way, within days, to a kind of joy expressed at the men’s martyrdom. On the third day after the video, people gathered in the church. “The women were congratulating each other,” he says. As they left the church, women ululated.

“I am certain it had a positive effect, not a negative effect,” says Issa. “In the month and a half when the people were kidnapped, the whole congregation was coming to the church to pray for their return, but in their prayers later on, they asked that if they died, they die for their faith, and that’s what happened. The congregation is actually growing, psychologically and spiritually.”

Several relatives of the victims applaud Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s decision to bomb ISIS targets in eastern Libya within hours of the release of the execution video. “It’s an honor to us that our government did not let their blood be spilled cheaply,” says Bashir Kamel. “We feel proud.”

Egypt remains polarized in the wake of the military takeover, led by al-Sisi, in which elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in July 2013. But a powerful coalition stands behind al-Sisi, who has vowed to combat militancy.

Bebawi Yousef, 35, a teacher at a local private school whose two brothers were also killed, echoes Kamel’s sentiment. “We feel proud of our President Sisi. We feel he is keeping us safe.”

Sobhi Ghattas Hanna, whose cousin was killed, says he wants the world to stand with Egypt. “We feel comforted by Sisi’s stance. He ordered the military to strike Libya directly after the video was published,” he says. “We want the whole world to stand beside Sisi in his fight against terrorism.”

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