CAIRO – The new group, comprised of female students from Egypt's Al-Azhar University, is devoted to protesting against what it calls the "coup" against Morsi, who was unseated by Egypt's military on July 3.
CAIRO – The new group, comprised of female students from Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, is devoted to protesting against what it calls the “coup” against Morsi, who was unseated by Egypt’s military on July 3.
They have been protesting tirelessly for an entire week now, carrying nothing but a trumpet and a yellow sash on their foreheads.
One of them holds a spray can in her hand, which she uses to write phrases critical of the ouster of Mohamed Morsi – Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president – and against military chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the man widely seen as the architect of Morsi’s overthrow.
This is how members of Egypt’s first female ‘ultras’ group spend their day.
The new group, comprised of female students from Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, is devoted to protesting against what it calls the “coup” against Morsi, who was unseated by Egypt’s powerful military on July 3.
During their marches on the university campus in eastern Cairo, members of the new movement call for the return of “constitutional legitimacy” and Morsi’s reinstatement as president.
Recent years have seen the emergence in Egypt of several football fan groups, made up almost entirely of men. This new ultras group, however, is the country’s first such political lobby group to be created by the fairer sex.
The emergence of the group took many observers by surprise, given the Islamic university’s conservative nature and reputation.
“Most of us are women, but we want to play a serious role,” Nadaa Abdel-Rahman, a student at the university’s college of Islamic studies and member of the new group, told Anadolu Agency.
“We want our voices to be heard,” she added. “This is why we brought the trumpet and thought of forming our own group.”
Most group members are hardly new to demonstrating, she stressed, having already taken part in a number of recent pro-democracy protests.
At this point, Abdel-Rahman was interrupted by one group member who chanted loudly nearby.
“Al-Azhar students are all men,” the young lady chanted, comparing herself – and her fellow group members – to men, who in local culture are seen as the stronger sex.
The same woman said she refused to lead a normal life and attend university lectures while some of her colleagues remained in prison.
“Other people are in pain,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We will continue to protest the military coup, regardless of attempts to hinder our movements.”
She added: “We still have much to do.”
Only a few meters away, Aya Abdel-Razik, another female Azhar student and group member, addressed her colleagues on the importance of keeping their activities entirely peaceful in nature.
“We will not try to clash with anybody,” Abdel-Razik, the group’s general coordinator, declared. “We have a political idea about which we want to raise public awareness.”
Some group members cover their faces, lest they be identified and arrested by police.
Abdel-Razik, however, insists this does not betray any fear on the part of demonstrators.
“We just want to stay on the safe side in order to be able to complete the journey to the end,” she said.
One of her colleagues, Maryam, said that group members staged regular protest marches on campus. But this, she noted, made them known to security personnel manning the gates of the university.
“If we show our faces, they can arrest us,” Maryam said.
She added that some of her fellow students had begun treating her badly due to her ongoing participation in protest rallies.
“It’s hard to accept their injustice in this regard,” she said, recalling a recent incident in which she and other group members became the target of scorn by several male students.
“But I’m comforted by the fact that a large number of other students express sympathy with our cause,” she added.
Maryam Abdel-Wahab, a female Al-Azhar student who has not joined the ultras group yet despite her support for the ousted president, says the ongoing rallies are simply meant to express the group’s political point of view.
“These protests aren’t hurting anybody,” Abdel-Wahab insisted. “On the contrary, they prove that we’re doing our best despite all the pressure we’re subject to.”