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memri
March 16, 2006 No.
1115

Wife of Imprisoned Egyptian Al-Ghad Party Leader: 'Dictatorship Leads to Extremism and Terrorism'

Gamila Isma'il, the wife of Ayman Nour, leader of Egypt's Reformist Al-Ghad party who was sentenced to five years in prison, was prevented by the Egyptian authorities from attending a March 5-7, 2006 conference on women and democracy held in Washington D.C. Isma'il is currently under investigation, along with her husband, by the Cairo civil court. [1] Ayman Nour has been accused of "defaming and cursing" President Hosni Mubarak and his regime and of assaulting a member of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), and Gamila Isma'il has been accused of assaulting a police officer and of "inciting against" Mubarak's regime. According to Isma'il, all the accusations are libel against her husband and herself.

Gamila Isma'il's address to the conference, dealing with the status of the Egyptian woman, was posted on the Al-Ghad party website www.elghad.org.

The following are excerpts from the address:

The Problems of the Egyptian Woman Cannot Be Separated From the Problems of the Egyptian Nation: [the Need for] Genuine Freedom and a New, Democratic Constitution

"I believe with total sincerity that the problems of the Egyptian woman cannot be separated from the problems of the Egyptian nation [as a whole], and particularly [the need for] genuine freedom and [for] a new, modern and democratic constitution which establishes a genuine, flexible mechanism for government change.

"We believe that liberty for women is part of the liberty of the homeland... The Egyptian woman cannot ensure her own freedom and the freedom of her family without a minimal [degree] of political freedom and unless the emergency laws [are abolished]... She does not demand freedom for herself alone, but gives [priority] to the rights of her nation: [the right to] dignity, liberty, growth, justice and proper governance. She believes that, through the nation, she can restore many rights that she lacks, both [in terms of] adequate political representation and [in terms of] equal economic and social rights.

"The Egyptian woman believes that tyrannical dictatorships necessarily lead to extremism, and produce terrorism as a result of the despair [felt by] the helpless peoples. We acknowledge the threat of violence, but we believe that the only way to oppose it is to start eliminating its causes. The primary and most important [cause] is lack of freedom, lack of mechanisms for proper government change, and denial of the people's right to elect their government freely!"

"[Keeping] Women Backward and Putting Them in Shackles Affects any Nation Striving for Progress and Liberty"

"[Denial] of women's rights and freedoms in developing societies that are advancing towards democracy harms not only the lives and the future of half the society, but society as a whole. [The policy of keeping] women backward and putting them in shackles affects any nation that is striving for progress and liberty...

"In discussing the status of women in Egypt, we must point out that, from their very first stages, our Islamic culture, and before it the Pharaonic culture - a most ancient and distinguished culture - both established equality between the sexes and improved the social status of women. Suffice it to say that the ancient Egyptians, before [the advent of] monotheism, envisioned the gods of justice, agriculture and the heavens in feminine, rather than masculine form. Moreover, women [in ancient Egypt] came into power through the same mechanisms that enabled men to attain power..."

"A Tyrannical Regime Destroys the Dignity of Both Men and Women, [Since] it [Respects] Nothing but Power"

"Qassem Amin [was] an Egyptian writer, philosopher and judge who wrote in favor of women's liberation. His statements in his book about women, published in the early 20th century, captured my attention as I turned to [investigate] the roots of the crisis [experienced by] the Egyptian woman, and maybe by all women in the Eastern [world].

"Qassem Amin stated that the [difficulties experienced by] women in the East stem from lack of democracy. A tyrannical regime supports every form of tyranny in society, and encourages violence and discrimination against women... He also stated that the relationship between men and women is influenced by the relationship between the regime and the individuals in society. A tyrannical regime destroys the dignity of both men and women, [since] it [respects] nothing but power. When power becomes a social value, the members [of society] come to value power in all its forms, and this is what enables men to treat women in a tyrannical [manner]." [2]


[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1075, "Arab Media Reactions to the Imprisonment of Ayman Nour, Leader of Egypt's Al-Ghad Liberal Party," January 24, 2006, Arab Media Reactions to the Imprisonment of Ayman Nour, Leader of Egypt's Al-Ghad Liberal Party.

[2] www.elghad.org, March 8, 2006.