Open Thread: How About That Arab Spring?

Supporters of the recent revolutions in several Arab countries were insistent that these uprisings would yield more democracy and freedom for people formerly oppressed by dictators. In Egypt, it's become clear that while people have indeed been allowed to vote, what they want to vote for is a far cry from freedom.

A political party affiliated with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group obtained a majority in parliamentary elections and Islamist candidates are ahead in polls conducted before the presidential election being held yesterday and today.

It's the little things that also show Egypt is heading in the wrong direction with a report coming out that a television channel which showed traditional Egyptian bellydancing has been shut down. A few days later, a new channel was announced that will feature women--but only ones dressed in veils and the niqab body-covering garment:

The administration arm of ‘Alummah’ channel is getting ready for the launch of “Maria” satellite channel in the Arab region. Its pilot broadcasts will start towards the end of this month, where all the staff including the broadcasters will be veiled women. No men or non-veiled women will be employed says Sheikha Safaa , the manager of the channel.

Even though these employment plans might be considered sexist, Sheikha Safaa seems to think otherwise. She has made it quite clear that the objectives of launching this channel is to offer veiled women the chance to appear on the screens and to empower other veiled women by activating their roles. She claims veiled women suffer marginalization.

Sheikha Safaa explained that the staff of the satellite channel will be all women, and men are not going to interfere in its general policies or programs quality. Even the owner of the channel will have only a consultative role based on his experience and skills in the field of media, she said.

“The affairs of the channel will be handled by the sisters who will be running the television channel, since women are more qualified to address and talk about their own needs”. She added Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah, the owner of the “Al Ummah” channel and the new “Maria” Channel, said in a statement that “God willing, the channel will employ Muslim women graduates of various departments of media collages and institutions. This project aims at protecting women from temptations by finding them suitable work opportunities .”

Of course, it's true that at least initially, many conservatives as well as liberals were cheering on the street revolutionaries in 2011. Things could turn out differently in the election but that seems unlikely at this point.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013