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Nasser Nasser/AP

“Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” they chanted. “Where is the field marshal?” they demanded of the top military officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. “The girls of Egypt are here.” Historians called the event the biggest women’s demonstration in modern Egyptian history, the most significant since a 1919 march against British colonialism inaugurated women’s activism here, and a rarity in the Arab world.

It also added a new and unexpected wave of protesters opposing the ruling military council’s efforts to retain power and its tactics for suppressing public discontent. The protest’s scale stunned even feminists here. In Egypt’s stiffly patriarchal culture, previous attempts to organize women’s events in Tahrir Square during this year’s protests almost always fizzled or, in one case in March, ended in the physical harassment of a small group of women by a larger crowd of men. “It was amazing the number of women that came out from all over the place,” said Zeinab Abul-Magd, a historian who has studied women’s activism here. “I expected fewer than 300.”

The march abruptly pushed women to the center of Egyptian political life after they had been left out almost completely. Although women stood at the forefront of the initial revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak 10 months ago, few had prominent roles in the various revolutionary coalitions formed in the uprising’s aftermath. Almost no women have won seats in the early rounds of parliamentary elections. And the continuing demonstrations against military rule have often degenerated into battles in which young men and the security police hurl rocks at each other.

Filippo Monteforte/Agence France-Presse

Photo: Mohamed Omar/EPA

Photo: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

Photo: Amr Nabil/AP

Guardian: Protests rage

NYT: Mass March by Cairo Women

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