World Bulletin / News Desk
Nine Egyptian anti-coup women's groups have united to form a coalition with the stated aim of stepping up efforts to end what they describe as last summer's "military coup" that unseated elected president Mohamed Morsi.
"The alliance aims to encourage more activity by women in resisting the military coup," alliance head Hoda Abdel-Moneim told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
Launched on Wednesday, the "Revolutionary Coalition of Egyptian Women" includes nine anti-coup women's groups.
"The coalition aims to mobilize women in the upcoming period to resist the coup and provide them with a unique experience fighting injustice," the coalition's founding statement reads.
Abdel-Moneim said the alliance would attempt to document human rights violations against women.
"We're preparing major surprises across the country," she said.
Female Morsi supporters have played an active role in ongoing demonstrations against last summer's military ouster of the democratically elected president.
Last November, an Egyptian court sentenced 21 female Morsi supporters – including a number of minors – to 11 years in jail each, which led to an international outcry. The girls were later given suspended sentences, however, after their lawyers appealed the ruling.
Granddaughter of Muslim Brotherhood founder's struggle
With a spare bed always ready for friends on the run, Wafaa Hefny is not your average English literature professor.
In her spare time, the 47-year-old veiled academic is trying to save the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed group that Egypt's army-backed authorities brand a "terrorist group", by ensuring it remains committed to peaceful change and rejects violence.
With most Brotherhood leaders, including Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Mursi, now behind bars, the granddaughter of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna is one of the movement's few influential figures still at large.
Hefny wants to prevent a frustrated younger generation of supporters from taking up arms in the face of one of the toughest crackdowns on the group in its 86-year history.
"The harder the state presses us, the more committed we should be to peaceful activism. That is what gives us strength. Violence would be very dangerous for us," she said.
"There are some young Islamists and others trying to get our youth to become violent. We have to stop this."
Resorting to violence would be disastrous because the movement would lose its moral high ground and provide an excuse to the government to crack down even harder, Hefny said.
To give the young an outlet to let off steam, Hefny organises clandestine meetings where they can use social media, write film scripts and design anti-government logos.
Children as young as 10 daub graffiti on walls mocking Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who ousted Mursi last July after mass protests against his rule. Sisi is tipped to win next month's presidential election in Egypt.
"This is starting to move things and give them ideas ... To keep people going so they can discover new things," said Hefny, a tall imposing figure who lives in a middle class district.
Hefny also directed a play starring Brotherhood youth which had a simple and ambitious plot: the movement would one day return to power and Sisi would face a court martial.
Apart from the crackdown by security forces, Brotherhood youth face many other challenges. They are demonised by the state press, thousands of their comrades are in jail and jobs are all too scarce in Egypt's gloomy economic climate.
Hefny said jailed members such as Mursi had diminishing sway while emerging new leaders were offering the young a greater say in how the famously hierarchical movement is run.
Its exiled secretary general issued a lengthy statement on Tuesday underscoring the Brotherhood's history of peaceful activism and rejecting the use of violence.
The letter from Mahmoud Hussein was the highest level statement from a senior figure not jailed in the crackdown.
Egyptian authorities have not provided evidence to back their accusations that the Brotherhood is involved in terrorism.
Though adamantly opposed to violent reprisals, Hefny said she believed men in the security forces who have abused detained women members of the Brotherhood should be publicly shamed.
"We harass these security men who rape. We send messages to them and write on their houses. We say 'your father or son did this' and this will pressure them to stop'," said Hefny.
Hefny, who teaches at Al-Azhar University, said she was constantly reminded of the risks she faces because of her work for the Brotherhood. Secret policemen sometimes ask her neighbours for information about her, she said.
Asked why she was not already in jail, Hefny smiled and recalled her grandfather who was assassinated in 1949.
"This is love that comes from the spirit of Hassan al-Banna," said Hefny, who uses an old model cellphone she thinks cannot be tapped. "Also my mother prays for me every day."
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