All Egyptian women seeking office in upcoming elections must be veiled and not speak to men, says a top Egyptian politician, adding to growing concerns that “Arab Spring” has been a setback for human rights in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Last week, 26 Coptic Christians were killed and more than 200 injured when the Egyptian army opened fire on a peaceful march. Christians were protesting a ban on any construction — including repairs — to churches, which has been enforced brutally in some cases by the Egyptian army.
Salafi leader Mahmoud Amer said “there should be conditions on women running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, namely that they should be veiled, and that they should not talk to men except when utterly necessary,” reported staff writers Mounir Adib, Hamdi Dabash and Ghada Mohamed Al-Sherif in the Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm.
Three Salafi parties, the Nour, Asala and Fadila parties, have announced that they are fielding female candidates in the elections.
“We want to prevent other female candidates who are not from the Islamist trends from winning seats,” said Nader Bakar, spokesman of the Nour Party.
Bakar added that his party would hold a conference in which it would explain the role of women in political life, according to al-Masry al-Youm. Hoda Abdel Moneim of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party told the newspaper that female members of the group would play an important role in politics. “We are no longer persecuted by the security services,” she said. Party Assistant Secretary Azab Mostafa said the party is fielding 47 women in the elections.
Meanwhile the president of Cairo’s Ain Shams University announced during an open discussion with university students and faculty members Wednesday morning that the university has decided to ban faculty members who wear full-body veils from teaching at the university and entering lectures.
Educational activities require communication between the students and faculty, said President Dr. Maged al-Dib.
“Accoring to al-Dib, niqab-wearing staff will be assigned to tasks that don’t involve teaching, such as grading papers,” reported al-Masry al-Youm. The university president warned of the growth of what he called “strange political currents” in the university, “stressing to teachers that they must look after their students and guide them away from such currents. He asked them to run discussions with students participating in such trends to try to convince them to renounce their ideas in a friendly way.
University Vice President for Student Affairs Atef al-Ouloum told the newspaper, “There are extremist and banned movements that can lead our students astray, but we make an exceptional effort to rally the students against this, because if we leave them alone, we will have to answer to God.”