Citation
Interview with Hala Shukrallah

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Hala Shukrallah
Series Title:
Middle East Women's Activism
Creator:
Shukrallah, Hala ( Interviewee )
Pratt, Nicola Christine ( contributor )
Place of Publication:
Cairo, Egypt
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Women's activism ( UW-MEWA )
Women -- Political activity ( LCSH )
Egypt ( LCSH )
Arab Spring (2010-) ( LCSH )
الربيع العربي (2010-) ( UW-MEWA )
January 25 2011 Revolution (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
Thawrat 25 Yanāyir 2011 (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
ثورة 25 ياناير 2011 (مصر) ( UW-MEWA )
Arab League ( UW-MEWA )
League of Arab States ( LCSH )
جامعة الدول العربيه‏ ( UW-MEWA )
Palestine ( LCSH )
Student movements ( LCSH )
Democracy ( LCSH )
Demonstrations ( LCSH )
Hijab (Islamic clothing) ( LCSH )
Jamʻīyat al-Ikhwān al-Muslimīn (Egypt) ( LCSH )
Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
جمعيات الإخوان المسلمين (مصر) ( UW-MEWA )
International Monetary Fund ( LCSH )
صندوق النقد الدولي‏ ( UW-MEWA )
Usrat Masr Group ( UW-MEWA )
Social justice ( LCSH )
Egyptian Bread Riots (1977) ( UW-MEWA )
انتفاضة الخبز (1997) ( UW-MEWA )
Fundamentalism ( LCSH )
Islamic fundamentalism ( LCSH )
New Woman Foundation ( UW-MEWA )
مؤسسة المرأة الجديدة ( UW-MEWA )
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights ( DBN )
Munaẓẓamah al-Miṣrīyah li-Ḥuqūq al-Insān ( UW-MEWA )
منظمة المصرية لحقوق الإنسان‏ ( UW-MEWA )
Volunteerism ( UW-MEWA )
Voluntarism ( LCSH )
Al Tajammu Party ( UW-MEWA )
Ḥizb al-Tajammuʻ al-Waṭanī al-Taqaddumī al-Waḥdawī (Egypt) ( LCSH )
حزب التجمع الوطني التقدمي الوحدوي (مصر) ( UW-MEWA )
Bashaier Organization ( UW-MEWA )
بشاير (مصر) ( UW-MEWA )
UNICEF ( LCSH )
UNDP ( UW-MEWA )
United Nations. Development Programme ( LCSH )
برنامج الامم المتحدة الانمائي ( EGAXA )
Ḥizb el-Dostour (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
Constitution Party (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
حزب الدستور (مصر) ( UW-MEWA )
Tahrir Square (Cairo, Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
Protests (Egypt : 2013 June 30) ( UW-MEWA )
Protests (Egypt : 2011-2013) ( LCSH )
Sudanese refugees ( UW-MEWA )
Centre for Trade Unions and Workers' Services (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
مركز الخدمات النقابية والعمالية ( UW-MEWA )
Prisoners' Families Movement ( UW-MEWA )
Kefaya ( UW-MEWA )
Kifāyah (Organization) ( LCSH )
الحركة المصرية من أجل التغيير ( UW-MEWA )
University of Cairo ( UW-MEWA )
Jāmiʻat al-Qāhirah ( LCSH )
جامعة القاهرة ( UW-MEWA )
Camp David Agreements (1978) ( LCSH )
הסכמי קמפ דיוויד (1978) ( UW-MEWA )
اتفاقات كامب ديفيد (1978) ( UW-MEWA )
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Egypt -- Cairo Governate -- Cairo
Coordinates:
30.033333 x 31.233333

Notes

Abstract:
Hala was born in Cairo on 27 October 1957. At the age of 11 her family moved to Canada, where her father, who worked for the Arab League, was posted. Hala returned to Cairo when she was 17, which coincided with the student uprising of 1971-72. After her brothers were arrested, she became actively involved in the Prisoners’ Families Movement, which was calling for the release of students and other activists detained for their political activities. She herself was also detained. Hala studied English literature at Cairo University and was involved in student activism around Palestine and social justice issues. In 1975, Hala’s father persuaded her to join him in India, where he was posted, in order to avoid police harassment. She returned to Egypt in 1979, finished her studies and got married. During the 1980s, Hala volunteered in Helwan, a working class suburb south of Cairo, giving literacy classes, where she joined up with other activists in order to mobilize for workers’ rights and health and environmental issues. Through this, she helped to found the Bashaier Organization, to provide social services for working women in the area. She was also a founding member of the New Woman study group, which later became the New Woman Foundation. Hala was involved in the 25 January 2011 uprising. In 2013, Hala became the head of the Dostour party, the first woman in Egypt to head a political party. Professionally, she has worked as a development consultant and holds a MA from Sussex University. ( en )
General Note:
Funding : Women's Activism in the Arab World (2013-2016). This project, funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, examines the significance of middle-class women's activism to the geo/politics of Arab countries, from national independence until the Arab uprisings. It was based on over 100 personal narratives of women activists of different generations from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
General Note:
Interview conducted on: 12 January 14
General Note:
Duration: 1 hour, 22 minutes and 20 seconds
General Note:
Language of interview: English
General Note:
Audio transcription by Captivate Arabia, Amman, Jordan , info@captivatearabia.com
General Note:
آسيا -- مصر -- القاهرة -- القاهرة
General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : Pratt, Nicola Christine : URI http://viaf.org/viaf/49147457

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Warwick
Rights Management:
© 2014 the Interviewer and Interviewee. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

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Full Text
Interview with Hala Shukrallah
2014
TAPE 1
Nicola Pratt: Can I begin by asking when and where you were born?
Hala Shukrallah: in Cairo 1954, October 27.
NP: Okay, and did you grow up in Cairo?
HS: I grew up in Cairo until the age of, I think, 11 or 12 not sure, until 6th primary
grade that's what I remember and then we went to Canada, and my father was
stationed there, he was in the Arab League, and he was stationed there as the head
of the Arab League office, In Ottawa Canada, and we stayed there for 5 or 6 years. So
we passed the 67 war there, and that was sort of an eye opener, because people
here were seeing something and we were hearing and seeing something else. That
was sort of interesting and of course all the different not repercussions, but how
different people were effected by it, surrounding us, surrounding not only our
family, but people who were involved with the cause, the cause for justice. Because
that period was quiet an interesting period al over the world not only our region.
NP: and when you returned back to Cairo, you would have ben like 17 then?
HS: Yes, I was 16, yeah, entering my 17th year.
NP: 16 yeah. And how did you find it coming back?
HS: Well, what I do remember, is that by the last year I was there... I mean it was a
beautiful experience all in all as a child to be there at that age. But I think by the time
I reached my 15th or 16th year, I wanted very much to return to Egypt, I had begun to
have interest in what is happening around the world. I remember I read Guevara and
you know, all of those dreams of a better world and what people were doing all over
the world and to change it and so on. So that had become, it started to become an
issue, and naturally you eyes kind of go to where you belong and how you can do
something about it. And so I had started to yearn to return to Egypt, so when I came
back I was happy, but I had still not connected. So, I was for a year, I think I was in
the middle of not knowing where I belong, and my Arabic was very poor and
basically the people I was with are the ones I knew from Canada, the kids of the
ambassador, the Egyptian ambassador there, so it was Jazeera club and that kind of
thing. And that went on for a year. I think the turning point was when my brothers
got arrested in the University, I mean, they had become while we were in Canada,
they had become very involved in politics of the time, they had... they were involved
in pickets and demonstrations on the issue of Palestine, and as I was saying the
people who are actively involved in these issues in Canada, and they had generated
interest in their school about what is happening. Of course don't forget you have the
1


Anti Vietnam war at the period, you have the civil rights movement, so you had a lot
going on then also that had affecting, you have Cuba, and all of this. And I think at
one point they actually volunteered and went with some of their friends in school to
Cuba, to harvest sugar canes, and a lot of people were going their because of the call
that was made by Fidel Castro that we will surpass the whole issue of the embargo
by producing I don't know over a million or something like this of whatever it is
called, sugar canes or... so we call all the people of the world to come and help us.
So, a lot of youth around that time went and did this. And yeah, so, when we came
back, they returned to university at a time where the student movement in Egypt
was beginning to read its head sort of. It was a natural progression for them to
become very involved in it. And it was also a natural progression for all of those
students to become arrested. And that's what happened, and so they came to our
house the police, and that to us, you know, to turn from living in a very different
context to be subjected to the whole shock of being in a police state and having all
those police come to your house and search it and so on, for me was something
quiet shocking and it sort of made me very determent also. It made a huge impact
that this has to change, that this can't continue, can't go on, that we all have to do
something about it, yea, that determined a lot of things for me. And so what I
remember is that I became involved in the family movement, which is to say that it is
of the families of the people who were arrested, we would all get together and start,
you know, to protest in front of different institutions and go to different institutions,
and bring up the issue and raise certain problems and certain issues and ask and
demand what is the institutions position is towards, and the people who had sort of
drafted me into the family movement after a while did not become involved so it
sort of became my thing, and I was going around to all those house of the students
that were arrested, in villages and in Slum areas, poor areas and so I... the whole
thing I don't know how to connect to my country, that sort of existentialist question
of kids in early teen ages ask themselves, where do I belong? That was sort of forced
on me, I had to connect and I connected to a certain, to a very varied environment,
which also crossed boundaries of class and made me aware of so many different
realities, I mean, yeah, that sort of developed my whole what you say... how I felt
people and how I connected to people and how I related to society... it doesn't
mater... or, I have to pick it.
NP: Your involvement in the family movement, were you able to build on that? Did it
transform into something else?
HS: No, no, It remained a movement of the families of those students arrested, it
became a tight bond of people that had a good relationship with each other, who
met and who became friends, and there were such a variety of activities, we used to
go to different syndicates and sit and talk with leaders of syndicates, we went to the,
inside the university and they lead a demonstrated with the students, the mothers
themselves were leading a demonstration with the students. We went to the
parliament house and met with the leader of the parliament house, and I remember
I was the spokespersons, so I stood up and said, "we the mothers of the arrested
students", so the guy looked at me and said "You are a mother!". And it turned out
that he knew my father very well so he started speaking very personally with me,
2


"Oh Hala, I know you since you were a child", so I told him "Please be very
professional", and he was very upset about it. I of course was very rude. But
anyway., that was natural for the time, so yeah, I mea, these people became sort of
second mothers to me, they, when I used to go to them, I would eat with them, and
so many times, if I am late they would make me sleep at their place, so it was, there
was that kind of relationship that was built over time, and as I said it effected me a
lot, and at one point we got arrested all of us. Because we were at the courthouse
and we used to go to the courthouse whenever there are students being, having
their cases presented at the courthouse, so while we were there, somebody got
arrested, somebody who was... and this is before I went to university, so one of the
students got arrested. A woman, a girl who was, who had fled, and who was not
arrested from... and so I for some reason made a stand and I said we will not leave
the courthouse until you bring her back, and so the Captain, or General or whatever,
in charge of the police group were there, came and told me, "go away from here,
don't make any trouble", and I said no, we will sit here, and we will have a sit in in
the courthouse if you don't bring her back, so he told his soldiers "take her away", so
they started dragging me away and then the mother started sort of pulling me away
from the soldiers, so it ort of became a tug between the guys who were pulling me,
the police who were pulling me, and the mothers who were pulling me, and so they
pushed all the mothers into the box and we were all taken to the headquarters of
the police, and interrogated and so on. They made us stay for only one night and
they got out. And it was including my own mother also, and because the court house
was very, is just adjacent to one of the prison where one of the students were held
and we were pushed into the court of the prison, which looks out from the court and
the prison at the same time the students saw their mothers being taken away and
they were up in the, behind the bars and they were actually seeing some of their
mothers being put into the police box. And they were shouting and so on. So it was
one of those moments that sort of everyone remembers, not fondly but... so, that
was as far as it got. Because beyond that point I think people, I mean students used
to stay about 7 or 8 months, and they would be released overtime, and once they
are released, sometimes, some of the mothers even though their kids are released
they would continue to be active until the kids of the other mothers were released.
So, yeah, that did happen. But I think it was sort of filtered down by the end of the
year, and by the end of that year, I had become, I had been arrested again, and I
think that was 72, yeah, 72, just before the 73 war. This time I went to prison not to,
not just to a police station, I think I stayed a couple of months, not sure, I don't
remember really. But then we were released, I was arrested in a demonstration, in
one of the demonstrations, we were released just a month or so before, prior to the
73 war. They released everyone, they wanted to let everyone out, because part of
the movement was land which was being occupied and the government is not doing
anything about it, it was a very weak government and there was this slogan "A
people who are not free, can't free their land", so there was this connection
between the issue of democracy and freedom to national sovereignty. So yeah, we
got out and then by September I went to university and so that was the end of the
family movement, and then began the years of student activism for me. And that's it,
it was a different stage.
3


NP: when you were one of the leaders of the family movement, was it... how did
people react to a young woman taking a leadership position like that?
HS: actually there was no reaction, I mean, you know, some of those issues about
women and men dissolve completely before the larger issue of what you are actually
doing. I think it becomes significant for people when there is actually nothing there,
and when over everything, people are superimposing ideas of gender divisions based
on the fact that they are saying nothing. They are not giving solutions to anything,
and so for them these are the solutions, but somehow, when there is actually
substance, people just don't give it a second thought and that I find very strange, I
am now at this stage really creeped out because I am a woman and I am a Copt. And
yet one of the largest parties as he need to be president, and these are old people
who are white conservative. These are not leftists, none of them are leftist almost,
so I find this very strange, so I think when we speak... is there something there?
NP: It's a leaf that fell from the plant.
HS: I thought something like lizards, we have some lizards sometimes... 70s you have
a much open view of women tan you have now. I mean, in the 70s there was no
Hijab (veil), women, no one had a Hijab on, that began through the rise of the
Islamist, the Muslim Brother movement, and the Jihadi movement, or Jamaat (the
groups), it wasn't Jihad then. Who began to be active in the university and they
pushed the whole issue of women dress as a way of delineating the difference
between the women who were secular and the women who were Muslim you know.
And as I was saying it began to fill a gap that was existed because you began to lack
the substance of your discourse to what the solution is in societies problems by that
time, the mid or late 70s. So, yeah, in the early 70s it was much less the whole issue
of women versus women roles, there were women, in many prominent positions, of
course they were still minor in leading positions but it was with less resistance from
a discursive point of view.
NP: do you want to say something about your student activism, what sort of
activities you were involved in?
HS: I entered faculty of arts in the English literature section and I refused to go the
American University because I wanted to go to the Cairo University where lay the...
which was the hot bed of student activism. And when I went there I started to meet
with al the people who were active the years before, or who had just gone in and
were active outside the university, and we started meeting together and in the
university and talking about what are some of the problems and what are some of
the issues and what is the democratic agenda and also the whole issue of... I mean
there was several issues being raised about the Palestinian cause remained a very
focal one, and what was the position of the government on it after camp David, of
course, that was one of things that was always being raised, the whole issue of the
rising prices in the social problems sort of escalated, with the whole open door
policy of Sadat and the deal that was made with IMF to drop the subsidies, to
withdraw subsidies on some basic goods, so we had some different things that we
4


had to address, ad we tried to address them through a tool that was being used
through the years of student activism and that was student journalism, and the
journalism that was being used at that time was people writing with their markers
on large sheets of paper and we had a hall between some of the rooms of the
lecture rooms, we called it the journalism hall, and that's where we would spread
our journals or newspapers or articles or whatever. And we would be standing there
and the students would come in before they go to their lectures and they would
read them and they would stand and they would discuss it, ad this is how we sort of
generated a continuous debate an ongoing debate in different faculties because it
was going on in our faculty in political science, in the faculty if law and so on... so this
was the main massage that the people used. And of course there was also the, they
used to be called "Al Usra", which literally means the family, but it is generally a
registered activity group in the university that has a certain objective and carries it
out through seminars or through you know a cinema or different activities, so every
group has a certain objective and a certain way of going about it. And we had this
group called "Usrat Masr", the Egypt People, by the time I entered university I think
a few months after it, this group was banned so we continued to carry out its
activities while it was being banned, and we refused the ban that the university put
on it. And we did hold seminars and we always got some of the support of many of
the professors who would provide a cover for our activities and so own, and yeah,
that was the main method. And by 74, 75, there began to be a raise of the energy of
the student movement once more, centered around social justice issues, and I think
by 75, the workers movement began to rise, and the first thing they did was come in
a demonstration from Hilwan to Cairo University calling on the students to join
them, calling for better wages so, the student did go out and join the demonstration.
And of course one of the things we always did in the seminars, that we asked for
different people in society who had a position to come and give a talk, so you know,
some of the known names would come and give a talk about different issues, and
Sheikh Imam Nijm who is well known poet and singer of the revolution, the
movement in general of the uprising or movement, or whatever, they were a very
loved figures who were very much only belonged at that time. To those who had a
position against what was happening, to the opposition sort of. Of course they
became later national figures, just this year, Nijm the poet died and he was hailed by
everyone including those who imprisoned him about a hundred times, as a national
figure so it is a victory in its own way. By 75 as I was saying there was a rise, a
continuous rise in the movement, I think by 75 there was an attempt to arrest, and it
was always by January, February, that arrests would happen. And at that time there
was a turning point in our personal lives, my father was stationed abroad again, in
India this time, and there was a lot of pressure on us to leave, especially that we
were continuously hounded by the police, and so I you know, he sort of forced the
issue, especially that he had a heart attack, so he forced the issue and we had to
leave the country for a couple of years, I went to England for few years and when I
was there 1977 happened, and I found, I learned that my name was in the
newspapers as one of the people who were arrested in 1977 uprising, and although
I wasn't in Egypt at the time and so apparently I got kicked out of the university for
being one of the students who was forcing students according to the security
report...
5


TAPE 2
HS:... while welding sharp objects to participate in the uprising, so that was
apparently the report against me, which was obviously false since I was not in Egypt
and I went at that time to the embassy to show them my passport and to have them
record that I have not got out of the country and of course they had a good laugh
about it. 1977 uprising, was known as the bread riot by everyone, it was called the
uprising of the thieves by Sadat, and it was mainly about the withdrawal of subsidies
on bread, which was the only thing left for people to eat and of course increasing
poverty became the norm since then until now, and that's why part of what was very
cleverly done by Sadat was giving that, giving room for the fundamentalist
movement to grow specifically in confrontation with the democratic movement.
Which always allied itself with social justice and so, of course, it spread with its own
methods and had a lot of support initially by the police, by the security so it was able
to utilize not only the support of the state but the presence, the natural presence of
the mosques in different areas, and this is from where they can generate, naturally
generate their propaganda and spread it and draft people into their cause and so on,
at a time where people started to feel totally lost. As a result of rising
unemployment, lots of people were immigrating to the Gulf, loosing their houses
loosing their land, and so from mid 70s to the 80s you have a complete redrawing of
the social map and the political map, and you know, 77 was the peak sort of the
democratic and social movement and then from then on, they had leak down, what
you call it, not down fall, but downward movement, you know, downward spiral of
that kind of movement and discourse and taking its lace was the Islamist and
fundamentalist movement which sort of ended in the assassination of Sadat. And
then the sudden realization of the government that we have create Frankenstein,
you know, so started the codependency of the police on the presence of the
fundamentalist movement to grow as a police state. And the fundamentalist
movement to continue to be the victim of the state generating more and more
sympathy and people for its movement. So we have been in that dualism for a very
long time, I think you know, the attempt to break that dualism has been the job of so
many people, in trying to sort of say there is another way, we don't have to be one
or the other. We don't have to be either pro oppression and dictatorship or pro
fundamentalism, which is another form of oppression and dictatorship. We all
believed the 25th January did that, but you know, once more they both come in into
the picture, and as always, helped by the superpowers that really don't want you to
be in the picture that much, don't want the democratic movement to be in the
picture that much, because it actually means free will, which is not really what you
want when it comes to your free will to do with resources what you want. Anyway,
that sort of leaps forward, so yeah, it ends, sort of my days of student activism sort
of ended with the 1975 and my leaving Egypt for a few years, I came back in 79. Had
to go to trial to reinstate myself in University, finished my diploma, my bachelor of
arts, and started my Masters then, got married and began a sort of different type of
activism which was, because I lived in Maadi near Hilwan, and I started... I then
joined the, I became one of the people who founded the New woman Foundation,
the New woman Organization, No, it was first called the New Woman Group,
6


because as I said 1980s, the growth of the fundamentalist discourse and how it
started to direct itself mainly against women, that was its front line sort of. Women
were the cause of every ailment of society, the cause of unemployment, the cause of
destruction of the family, the cause of everything. Basically, they were an easy scape
goat and so a lot of laws from their perspective were being dictated, women had to
go back home, raise their families, put on Hijab, because if they didn't they would go
to hell, and so on. This because their main point of attraction because they gave a
solution to the people. We know our problems but this is why the problems exist
and so this is the solution. And so many of us, not many but some, started looking at
certain issues to address, not everything, not I a holistic way, but certain issues to
address, that you need to develop your own discourse against and start formulate
agenda you know, for these kinds of things. And I think that was the beginning of the
emergence of different organizations, around certain issues as I was saying, whether
it was women's rights or things like arrests and tortures, when the Egyptian
Organization for Human Rights was established and later on in the 90s you had a
mushroom of different civil society organizations around every issue you can name,
of course, in the beginning no one really thought of, we all volunteered our time and
for me that continued with the New Woman Foundation work and other workers
organizations and so on. But by the early 90s a lot of organizations were getting
funded so people at least from our side, they maintain their relationship between
volunteerism and people who were paid executives, or workers, not workers but
executives, I mean staff. But a lot of organizations you know became professional
bodies who were doing important work like you know, publishing yearly reports
about the different violations in different areas, I think by end of the 90s also, people
once more started to not only highlight the political violations but also the socio
economic violations so that sort of returned and tat is important, because that some
how was forgotten during those 10 years, it was always the issue of democracy as if
it is isolated and the issue of police mishandling, you know, police violations ad
torture and so on. But you know, it was very important to sort of look at the
immense amount of the socio economic violations that were happening. And I think
once that returned people were able to reconnect once more with a lot of the
movements that were going on the ground by different sectors, whether they are
farmers or being pushed out of their land after the law came out to gain some of the
land that was being rented out to those farmers or workers who were still being paid
but they were being paid what they were paid 30 years ago, at a time when prices
were rising by 400 percent every year, which was incredible so yeah. So, that sort of
continued in every point, you, and I as one of those people looking for what is the
best way to break through that duality and at the same time to connect with the real
issues on the ground to achieve democracy and social justice. And different
strategies and different ways and different methods become necessary at different
points, yeah. If you were able to look back and learn from people mistakes, that's
what we did.
NP: apart from The New Woman Group, where there any other initiatives or
organizations you were involved in during this period?
7


HS: Yeah, I think even before I connected with the New Group, I knew all of the
people who were there, I had sort of all belong to the same circle, I began to say that
I was, through going down and working in Hilwan, which is a working class district
and giving lessons on anti illiteracy and I met with a lot of people there and we start
to work, through Al Tajamu party office there in Hilwan and we held different
seminars around workers rights. And I think, at one time I was arrested there,
because we tried to have a conference in the street, we got the chairs and I don't
know what, and we had a conference, and we also became active there around, if I
remember, it was around the early 80s, the excursion into Lebanon by the Israeli,
attempted occupying south of Lebanon, anyway so, we started to be active in
Hilwan, ad from there I started to know a lot of people and we at that point, I think it
was election activity at one point and at the end of it we decided that maybe it is
important... because Tajamu would close its office whenever it wanted and it did not
want too many people coming in anymore, it did not want to become popular. Yeah.
Basically! And we had made it popular, we had a lot of activities, we volunteered for
different things, we went down and I remember to an area close to Hilwan called
Masara, which has an open sewage system, its absolutely horrific and we went
around with different youth there, and we started asking people and the pharmacies
what are the main illnesses that people suffer from, most of the medicines that they
take and we discovered a lot of things and we got doctors to look at this, and then
we had a petition for the council to shut down that sewage system, of course, they
didn't do anything but that also generated or started to get people together and
build up their not only their interest but their enthusiasm for doing something. And
so where do you go? We have the Tajamu office in Hilwan, lets go and meet and lets
speak there. Now that disturbed the Tajamu leadership when they heard it, and they
closed the office, so we had nowhere to meet basically, and that's when we began to
talk about well, what should we do? What we really need is a big place, from where
we can, people can come and it can be theirs and they can own it and from there
they can meet ad talk about their problems and start to organize in order to address
these problems, and that started the whole Bashaier Organization, which took a very
different root, although started as a... because we said female workers, what are
their problems? Oh, it is the whole issue of nursing because they... although the law
states that every 100 women working in a factory there has to be a nursery, always
the factory employs 99 and cuts off at the hundred person in order not to have a
nursery, so, we said let us start with a nursery. And that stayed for many, many years
that activity and of course later what people wanted to do it has to be a model
nursery with a very advanced education and ideas. So we sort of got involved in so
many particulars and specifics and we had to learn these things ourselves because
we were all volunteers. So, yeah, I got involved in that, but that whole institution
evolved over time and we had different sections within it, one of them a cooperative
for women where they produced certain things and sold it and took the profit,
another one was also., we began also to address things like violence against women,
and there was a section, a lot of the women there were trained by something like Al
Nadeem center for the rehabilitation of the victims of violence. They train them and
they opened sectioned in Bashaier in order to work with women who were victims of
violence. So it evolved and it has so many activities that it is involved in. and I think it
sort of generated a lot of interest in the area and influenced a lot of other
8


organizations in the area, to sort of immolate it, and it trained a lot of people in
other foundations and associations in Hilwan to do, to take on similar activities, and
by 97, I had been involved in the New Woman, in Bashaier then in the Egyptian
Organization for Human Rights then in the founding of the center for trade union
and workers rights, just its beginning I wasn't one of the names who founded it but I
helped them in their start. And so, I also started... of course in the middle of that I
was working and I started to worked in the development sector, didn't want to be a
teacher, which is what you usually are if you are a graduate of the English Literature
faculty but I started to work in some freelance work for UNICEF in evaluating
projects and all of that, then I got a job in one of the organizations and then I went
out and did my Masters in Sussex University, when I came back, I continued working
with all these organizations, I think at that time it was, I was helping in the center of
trade union and workers rights because I think I presented a paper with them and
yeah, after a while I also started to feel like there is a need to look also at the whole
experience that was going, and what was, why it was so limited and what are the
problems? And because I was working as a freelance consultant at that time I was
able to connect with a lot of organizations and help in a lot of organization startup,
just start up through Identifying what were the problems in their areas ad how to
formulate what you are going to do and so on. And in different parts of Egypt. So,
that's by 97 or 99, I decided not to work at all these big institutions like UNDP, I
worked at UNDP for a while and I opened my own office, hoping that this could be
some, a place that people were able to solve some f the issues and problems of how
you can really build on those experiences, that is basically it.
NP: can I ask, is the Bashaier project still going today?
HS: Yah, it is still going on.
NP: can I ask how you managed your life, you were working, you were volunteering
you are married, I mean, how did you personally manage to do all of this?
HS: with difficulty, I don't know, looking back, I know it was difficult, but I think I
always felt that in different points you give priorities to different things, sometimes
when it is really urgent that you are there, you do it, and you give everything you got
to it, but when you are, when your id needs you or your family there, you have to
also be there, you have shut out everything else, so, I don't think anything... I think I
was always going with my gut feelings, I needed my family at certain points and I
sort of needed to shut out some of those issues that are always conflicts, always
conflicts. And I always need a time away from conflicts and I am not a person who
enjoys conflict. So, yeah I think my family made peace for me, so juggling between
that and the others is sort of comes through gut instinct and your own need to be
able to be sane, but you do have a very full time agenda, you don't have much time
to relax except if you sort of... I remember for many, many years the idea of having a
vacation was sort of alien. We didn't have vacations, and when I met with people
from different countries, and you know, they say this is the month where we take a
vacation, I take it... lucky you I You actually take a month. So I think I didn't even start
to think about that until I reached my early 50s. I said well, I am going to take a
9


month vacation. I think I did it only for 2 years and that was it, I went back to... so,
yeah, I think that's, you are very stressed out, you have a lot of pressure, you have a
sense of responsibility and obligation that you are not able to escape ever... ever,
ever, ever, and if you try to escape it, people are going to keep reminding you and
tell you that you have to come, because it is important that you come, because you
can make a difference and you know, that kind of constant blackmail and self
blackmail are the most stressful. But yeah, I mean, it is still that, you attempt to steal
a few moments for yourself and for your own sanity, and people who are close to
you, your family and so on. So, that's how. Don't know if I was successful or not but I
hope so.
NP: where does this sense of obligation come from?
HS: Yeah, that's a problem. I think it came from very early on. Somehow when you
get involved, and when you just put your foot down on that path on we will change
the world, somehow, it grows with it, and as you continue and as you become more
involved people make you feel that, okay, you are actually making a difference for
this sense of obligation that grows with you, and it always makes you feel like "I cant
go, I cant leave", I remember when I was, when I had registered for my PhD, I didn't
want to stay two years, I stayed for one year, no 6 months, and I told them I can do
the rest of the work there... and they told me, why? You have... I said, no, because
my country needs me, I have to go back. And so that, its weird that you have that
sense because a lot of people who were also involved didn't have, they left and they
immigrated, so I have always been thinking why do some of us have that sense... and
it's a false sense because life does go on without you, so why one has that sense that
its important to be in the middle of these things, I have no idea, I am trying to make
sense, but I have no idea why. But that's all the answer I can give you, but it doesn't
make sense. As you can see, I have been trying to get out o the whole, my last
experience, and I am not able to get out of it, although I did everything I could, that
was funny. I had swore on everything that was... never to enter a political party again
and then these friends came after the 25th January and told me, look, we have this
Constitution party and we want you in it, and I said, no, I don't want to...
TAPE 3
HS:... I am not entering any political party, I hate these kind of things, I hate the
whole meetings issue and conflict and I cant stand it. I much prefer to be you know,
in an open dialogue and an open place, and people working underground, and they
stated insisting and Al Baradei he is going to be there, and there are a lot of people
you don't have to do anything. You just be one of the names and... so at the end I
agreed. At that time a lot of people were entering Egypt, it was that sense of the
country is changing and everyone had to give their bit, so I did, I entered on this
basis and my leg was sort of pulled further and further in. could you when we are
launching the party, could we ask you to sit on the panel beside Baradei and... okay,
and I would understand because you want a woman there and a Copt, or whatever,
and so I did it. And it goes on and on, then I was asked to be in the steering
committee and I would say okay, but I ask very clearly, this is a transition period?
10


And they said yes, this is just until we establish the main structure of the party then
the steering committee would dissolve. And then apparently it gets to be put in the
bylaws that the steering committee has to be there until the first conference, and
you know, this continues to go on and on. And so I say okay I will stay until the
conference, just before the conference and then I will resign, and I resigned. And
once I resigned, because throughout those 2 years there were so many internal
problems and fights, and I written, I was writing for myself but I wrote an analysis of
what was happening and as I was telling you, suddenly this became for people, for
young people in the party, well, she has a solution, lets gets her, so they started to
bombard me with requests to come down and step into the position of the president
of the party. And I refuse and refuse and refuse for 3 months, and then delegation
starts coming, and people from different governates and so its lead me to where I
am now. Going down into this experience of elections and I am not happy about it,
you know, but I mean, the only thing that is good about it that people tell me, is that
it brought hope to a lot of young people who were leaving the party and who had
given up and people who apparently left the party and was coming back and this is
good, if we can sort of offer a vision I think others can carry it out, I think that would
be enough for me, then I would be able to rest and give up this whole sense of
obligation and responsibility.
NP: I've got that on tape so I will hold you to that.
HS: good. Please do.
NP: can I ask the problem are within the Constitution Party are they ideological, are
they of strategic tactical issues?
HS: No they are not ideological, I think they are mostly organizational. It is all about
the lack of vision, the lack of political stance, and you know people came together on
the three slogans, and there was nothing further than that. And the way the
organization was done, you know, you have a figure, a figure head, who does have a
vision n a way or a political savvy, but the vision is very vague, but he also has people
around him who can trust, and so the whole Idea of different structures, they are
not the ones who take the decisions its people around him who he trusts. So every
decision that gets taken gets stopped somehow, and people who are on different
governates and on different municipalities, levels of the structure, what they receive
is that nothing is happening, you know, while the country is evolving very fast. The
political reality keeps going from one step to the other, what's our position? There is
no position. And the only position is what you see, what Dr. Baradei comes out and
says as an individual but as a party, it is somehow not, it lacks that strategic vision
and how it translates into a specific objectives, and it supports its activities, and
supports those people who do those activities, so linking between all of that does
not exist and the people are very different the ones who are brought together. And
so they are really not working together for one... towards one objective. And I think
that you know, it generated a lot of anger, and there is a certain a rank and a file of
the party and people didn't know what on earth was going on, so they targeted
certain people, we were really not the ones who caused this. And so those people
11


left the party, so all of this I mean created a divisions within the party, some people
like those people, and some people didn't like those people, so they were divided so
you have different factions within the party, not based on neither a political vision,
nor an ideological division, but who you like and who you don't like. And so, why
people came to me? Is that I neither belonged to this group nor this group nor this
group. So I was not part of any of those divisions, and I basically dealt with everyone
based on political you know, stand. That's why you know, partly people thought well,
that woman, and that's way they hanged on. This is what its been like for over a year
now, people come to you and say, that person that is the one who belongs to this
guy and this person belongs to this guy, it is that kind of thing. And because this
Constitution party is made up over 90 percent are really the youth of the revolution,
their only experience is that 2 or 3 years. There is very little content. And if the party
doesn't give that content, they get lost. And they get lost into these kind of conflicts,
and that conflict take a place of reality, and how enthusiastic about it they are and
the positions they have taken how violent it is, takes the resemblance of the
revolution, you know, we are the revolutionists, so we are very determined. These
people go this kind of thing. So its sad. Of course at this point in time, they are
realizing that there are bigger issues, and that is ort of what I am trying to drill into
the people now. If you don't get your head out of your ass... I don't say that way
though, you are going to find a very different reality around us. We are facing some
pretty big challenges, and start looking outwards and stop this inward looking,
because yeah, you already brought the party down so if you don't stop it, that's it, go
home, this is the only solution. And wait for another 20, 30 years until maybe
someone else comes and... so, having said that, people are saying, okay, give us
some answers. I go, well, I don't have the answers, we have to come out with the
answers collectively, again, if we can do that, then I think we should be honest
enough to say lets leave it to someone else. That's what's been happening in the
Constitution Party, is also happening in other political parties so. You know, I have
been wondering, it has been happening in the leftist party, which is a coalitions
between different left factions and it broke down after few years. So I am not sure
what is going on in the social democratic party but I am hearing it is also having a lot
of problems. But all of this is a part of the fact that, we have never had political
parties growing and evolving in a democratic environment, this is the first time.
Whether this democratic environment is to be maintained or a crack down is going
to happen, we are still I think in the middle, it didn't happen fully yet, there are
pressures, but it didn't happen yet. So, I still believe that these organization can
evolve, these structures can evolve if there is a democratic environment allowing
them to evolve and to address the problems they have been having and to develop
some of the solutions, that is all.
NP: yeah, can I just quickly check on a few things, before the 25 January, were you
involved of any of the initiatives or movements that emerged after 2000, like Kefaya
or any...
HS: No, I wasn't involved with Kefaya specifically but I was involved in a lot of Pickets
and demonstrations, I remember there is one for the Sudanese refugees, there was
a big crack on them, they were having a sit in in front of the UNHCR, it was
12


incredible, horrific police brutality, so we went and had a stand a picket stand in
protest. And there were several throughout the years. We had a lot of... it was never
demonstrations because you were never allowed to move, you just stand on the
pavement and you would be surrounded by thousands of policemen, so yeah, I was
involved in sort of getting people used to be able to protest, I think that was the
objective, so we had a lot of protests. But I wasn't one of the people who were in
Kefaya. That's it, I cant remember of course all of the things.
NP: did you attend the demonstrations on the 25th January?
HS: not the 25th but the 28th, on the 25th we had a seminar, it was about it was,
[inaudible: 15:37]... people from the region and some from international, from other
organizations, it was addressing social justice issues, someone from Bolivia, someone
from Brazil, and Morocco, and Tunisia, although the Tunisian people didn't come
because at that time they had their revolution, but anyway, it was all, we attempted
to have this international campaign on three subjects, the right to water, the right to
health and international labor standards, and we were as an office, we were sort of
facilitating the adjoin campaign, and so it started on the 24, or 23, and went through
January 28. So, it ended and all of these things were happening on the 25th, so all the
Egyptians on the 25th disappeared, and all our staff disappeared, so we continued
having it with our eyes on what is happening, and I think in the last days we said,
look people we cant just sit ad talk anymore, I think what is happening is much more
important, and so all the people even those who came from other countries
understood that is what we want to do. So yeah, we all took to the streets on the
28th and that was quoit an experience, and of course onward of course, the whole 18
days, and I was there on that famous day of the attack with the canons, I was in
Tahrir at that time, and we all slept in Tahrir Square, and it was pretty horrific to see
all the people more dead and people carried and it was, yeah, it was very sad. That's
it. To see a person who is beside you and another woman who were dead, you know,
those kinds of things, horrible experiences, and I think this generation has seen too
much. I mean all we went through doesn't come an inch near what they have been
through. I wonder what in store for them what will they be doing in the future. Will
they have the same sense of obligation and responsibility, because they had to carry
their friends to the morgue and they have seen horrific things and they have done
very noble things, I always think there is hope in the future and it is impossible you
know, these people, this generation who did all of this, can lay down and take it. And
that gives us some hope.
NP: I think it is good to end on that positive optimistic note. I like that.
HS: Yeah
NP: is there anything that I didn't ask you that you think its important that you want
to say?
HS: I think I have said everything.
13


NP: Okay, I thank you very much.
HS: You are very welcome, and good luck with your book.
14


Full Text
Interview with Hala Shukrallah
2014

TAPE 1

Nicola Pratt: Can I begin by asking when and where you were born?

Hala Shukrallah: in Cairo 1954, October 27.

NP: Okay, and did you grow up in Cairo?

HS: I grew up in Cairo until the age of, I think, 11 or 12 not sure, until 6th primary grade that�s what I remember and then we went to Canada, and my father was stationed there, he was in the Arab League, and he was stationed there as the head of the Arab League office, In Ottawa Canada, and we stayed there for 5 or 6 years. So we passed the 67 war there, and that was sort of an eye opener, because people here were seeing something and we were hearing and seeing something else. That was sort of interesting and of course all the different not repercussions, but how different people were effected by it, surrounding us, surrounding not only our family, but people who were involved with the cause, the cause for justice. Because that period was quiet an interesting period al over the world not only our region.

NP: and when you returned back to Cairo, you would have ben like 17 then?

HS: Yes, I was 16, yeah, entering my 17th year.

NP: 16 yeah. And how did you find it coming back?

HS: Well, what I do remember, is that by the last year I was there� I mean it was a beautiful experience all in all as a child to be there at that age. But I think by the time I reached my 15th or 16th year, I wanted very much to return to Egypt, I had begun to have interest in what is happening around the world. I remember I read Guevara and you know, all of those dreams of a better world and what people were doing all over the world and to change it and so on. So that had become, it started to become an issue, and naturally you eyes kind of go to where you belong and how you can do something about it. And so I had started to yearn to return to Egypt, so when I came back I was happy, but I had still not connected. So, I was for a year, I think I was in the middle of not knowing where I belong, and my Arabic was very poor and basically the people I was with are the ones I knew from Canada, the kids of the ambassador, the Egyptian ambassador there, so it was Jazeera club and that kind of thing. And that went on for a year. I think the turning point was when my brothers got arrested in the University, I mean, they had become while we were in Canada, they had become very involved in politics of the time, they had� they were involved in pickets and demonstrations on the issue of Palestine, and as I was saying the people who are actively involved in these issues in Canada, and they had generated interest in their school about what is happening. Of course don�t forget you have the Anti Vietnam war at the period, you have the civil rights movement, so you had a lot going on then also that had affecting, you have Cuba, and all of this. And I think at one point they actually volunteered and went with some of their friends in school to Cuba, to harvest sugar canes, and a lot of people were going their because of the call that was made by Fidel Castro that we will surpass the whole issue of the embargo by producing I don�t know over a million or something like this of whatever it is called, sugar canes or� so we call all the people of the world to come and help us. So, a lot of youth around that time went and did this. And yeah, so, when we came back, they returned to university at a time where the student movement in Egypt was beginning to read its head sort of. It was a natural progression for them to become very involved in it. And it was also a natural progression for all of those students to become arrested. And that�s what happened, and so they came to our house the police, and that to us, you know, to turn from living in a very different context to be subjected to the whole shock of being in a police state and having all those police come to your house and search it and so on, for me was something quiet shocking and it sort of made me very determent also. It made a huge impact that this has to change, that this can�t continue, can�t go on, that we all have to do something about it, yea, that determined a lot of things for me. And so what I remember is that I became involved in the family movement, which is to say that it is of the families of the people who were arrested, we would all get together and start, you know, to protest in front of different institutions and go to different institutions, and bring up the issue and raise certain problems and certain issues and ask and demand what is the institutions position is towards, and the people who had sort of drafted me into the family movement after a while did not become involved so it sort of became my thing, and I was going around to all those house of the students that were arrested, in villages and in Slum areas, poor areas and so I� the whole thing I don�t know how to connect to my country, that sort of existentialist question of kids in early teen ages ask themselves, where do I belong? That was sort of forced on me, I had to connect and I connected to a certain, to a very varied environment, which also crossed boundaries of class and made me aware of so many different realities, I mean, yeah, that sort of developed my whole what you say� how I felt people and how I connected to people and how I related to society� it doesn�t mater� or, I have to pick it.

NP: Your involvement in the family movement, were you able to build on that? Did it transform into something else?

HS: No, no, It remained a movement of the families of those students arrested, it became a tight bond of people that had a good relationship with each other, who met and who became friends, and there were such a variety of activities, we used to go to different syndicates and sit and talk with leaders of syndicates, we went to the, inside the university and they lead a demonstrated with the students, the mothers themselves were leading a demonstration with the students. We went to the parliament house and met with the leader of the parliament house, and I remember I was the spokespersons, so I stood up and said, �we the mothers of the arrested students�, so the guy looked at me and said �You are a mother!�. And it turned out that he knew my father very well so he started speaking very personally with me, �Oh Hala, I know you since you were a child�, so I told him �Please be very professional�, and he was very upset about it. I of course was very rude. But anyway., that was natural for the time, so yeah, I mea, these people became sort of second mothers to me, they, when I used to go to them, I would eat with them, and so many times, if I am late they would make me sleep at their place, so it was, there was that kind of relationship that was built over time, and as I said it effected me a lot, and at one point we got arrested all of us. Because we were at the courthouse and we used to go to the courthouse whenever there are students being, having their cases presented at the courthouse, so while we were there, somebody got arrested, somebody who was� and this is before I went to university, so one of the students got arrested. A woman, a girl who was, who had fled, and who was not arrested from� and so I for some reason made a stand and I said we will not leave the courthouse until you bring her back, and so the Captain, or General or whatever, in charge of the police group were there, came and told me, �go away from here, don�t make any trouble�, and I said no, we will sit here, and we will have a sit in in the courthouse if you don�t bring her back, so he told his soldiers �take her away�, so they started dragging me away and then the mother started sort of pulling me away from the soldiers, so it ort of became a tug between the guys who were pulling me, the police who were pulling me, and the mothers who were pulling me, and so they pushed all the mothers into the box and we were all taken to the headquarters of the police, and interrogated and so on. They made us stay for only one night and they got out. And it was including my own mother also, and because the court house was very, is just adjacent to one of the prison where one of the students were held and we were pushed into the court of the prison, which looks out from the court and the prison at the same time the students saw their mothers being taken away and they were up in the, behind the bars and they were actually seeing some of their mothers being put into the police box. And they were shouting and so on. So it was one of those moments that sort of everyone remembers, not fondly but� so, that was as far as it got. Because beyond that point I think people, I mean students used to stay about 7 or 8 months, and they would be released overtime, and once they are released, sometimes, some of the mothers even though their kids are released they would continue to be active until the kids of the other mothers were released. So, yeah, that did happen. But I think it was sort of filtered down by the end of the year, and by the end of that year, I had become, I had been arrested again, and I think that was 72, yeah, 72, just before the 73 war. This time I went to prison not to, not just to a police station, I think I stayed a couple of months, not sure, I don�t remember really. But then we were released, I was arrested in a demonstration, in one of the demonstrations, we were released just a month or so before, prior to the 73 war. They released everyone, they wanted to let everyone out, because part of the movement was land which was being occupied and the government is not doing anything about it, it was a very weak government and there was this slogan �A people who are not free, can�t free their land�, so there was this connection between the issue of democracy and freedom to national sovereignty. So yeah, we got out and then by September I went to university and so that was the end of the family movement, and then began the years of student activism for me. And that�s it, it was a different stage.

NP: when you were one of the leaders of the family movement, was it� how did people react to a young woman taking a leadership position like that?

HS: actually there was no reaction, I mean, you know, some of those issues about women and men dissolve completely before the larger issue of what you are actually doing. I think it becomes significant for people when there is actually nothing there, and when over everything, people are superimposing ideas of gender divisions based on the fact that they are saying nothing. They are not giving solutions to anything, and so for them these are the solutions, but somehow, when there is actually substance, people just don�t give it a second thought and that I find very strange, I am now at this stage really creeped out because I am a woman and I am a Copt. And yet one of the largest parties as he need to be president, and these are old people who are white conservative. These are not leftists, none of them are leftist almost, so I find this very strange, so I think when we speak� is there something there?

NP: It�s a leaf that fell from the plant.

HS: I thought something like lizards, we have some lizards sometimes� 70s you have a much open view of women tan you have now. I mean, in the 70s there was no Hijab (veil), women, no one had a Hijab on, that began through the rise of the Islamist, the Muslim Brother movement, and the Jihadi movement, or Jamaat (the groups), it wasn�t Jihad then. Who began to be active in the university and they pushed the whole issue of women dress as a way of delineating the difference between the women who were secular and the women who were Muslim you know. And as I was saying it began to fill a gap that was existed because you began to lack the substance of your discourse to what the solution is in societies problems by that time, the mid or late 70s. So, yeah, in the early 70s it was much less the whole issue of women versus women roles, there were women, in many prominent positions, of course they were still minor in leading positions but it was with less resistance from a discursive point of view.

NP: do you want to say something about your student activism, what sort of activities you were involved in?

HS: I entered faculty of arts in the English literature section and I refused to go the American University because I wanted to go to the Cairo University where lay the� which was the hot bed of student activism. And when I went there I started to meet with al the people who were active the years before, or who had just gone in and were active outside the university, and we started meeting together and in the university and talking about what are some of the problems and what are some of the issues and what is the democratic agenda and also the whole issue of� I mean there was several issues being raised about the Palestinian cause remained a very focal one, and what was the position of the government on it after camp David, of course, that was one of things that was always being raised, the whole issue of the rising prices in the social problems sort of escalated, with the whole open door policy of Sadat and the deal that was made with IMF to drop the subsidies, to withdraw subsidies on some basic goods, so we had some different things that we had to address, ad we tried to address them through a tool that was being used through the years of student activism and that was student journalism, and the journalism that was being used at that time was people writing with their markers on large sheets of paper and we had a hall between some of the rooms of the lecture rooms, we called it the journalism hall, and that�s where we would spread our journals or newspapers or articles or whatever. And we would be standing there and the students would come in before they go to their lectures and they would read them and they would stand and they would discuss it, ad this is how we sort of generated a continuous debate an ongoing debate in different faculties because it was going on in our faculty in political science, in the faculty if law and so on� so this was the main massage that the people used. And of course there was also the, they used to be called �Al Usra�, which literally means the family, but it is generally a registered activity group in the university that has a certain objective and carries it out through seminars or through you know a cinema or different activities, so every group has a certain objective and a certain way of going about it. And we had this group called �Usrat Masr�, the Egypt People, by the time I entered university I think a few months after it, this group was banned so we continued to carry out its activities while it was being banned, and we refused the ban that the university put on it. And we did hold seminars and we always got some of the support of many of the professors who would provide a cover for our activities and so own, and yeah, that was the main method. And by 74, 75, there began to be a raise of the energy of the student movement once more, centered around social justice issues, and I think by 75, the workers movement began to rise, and the first thing they did was come in a demonstration from Hilwan to Cairo University calling on the students to join them, calling for better wages so, the student did go out and join the demonstration. And of course one of the things we always did in the seminars, that we asked for different people in society who had a position to come and give a talk, so you know, some of the known names would come and give a talk about different issues, and Sheikh Imam Nijm who is well known poet and singer of the revolution, the movement in general of the uprising or movement, or whatever, they were a very loved figures who were very much only belonged at that time. To those who had a position against what was happening, to the opposition sort of. Of course they became later national figures, just this year, Nijm the poet died and he was hailed by everyone including those who imprisoned him about a hundred times, as a national figure so it is a victory in its own way. By 75 as I was saying there was a rise, a continuous rise in the movement, I think by 75 there was an attempt to arrest, and it was always by January, February, that arrests would happen. And at that time there was a turning point in our personal lives, my father was stationed abroad again, in India this time, and there was a lot of pressure on us to leave, especially that we were continuously hounded by the police, and so I you know, he sort of forced the issue, especially that he had a heart attack, so he forced the issue and we had to leave the country for a couple of years, I went to England for few years and when I was there 1977 happened, and I found, I learned that my name was in the newspapers as one of the people who were arrested in 1977 uprising, and although I wasn�t in Egypt at the time and so apparently I got kicked out of the university for being one of the students who was forcing students according to the security report�

TAPE 2

HS:� while welding sharp objects to participate in the uprising, so that was apparently the report against me, which was obviously false since I was not in Egypt and I went at that time to the embassy to show them my passport and to have them record that I have not got out of the country and of course they had a good laugh about it. 1977 uprising, was known as the bread riot by everyone, it was called the uprising of the thieves by Sadat, and it was mainly about the withdrawal of subsidies on bread, which was the only thing left for people to eat and of course increasing poverty became the norm since then until now, and that�s why part of what was very cleverly done by Sadat was giving that, giving room for the fundamentalist movement to grow specifically in confrontation with the democratic movement. Which always allied itself with social justice and so, of course, it spread with its own methods and had a lot of support initially by the police, by the security so it was able to utilize not only the support of the state but the presence, the natural presence of the mosques in different areas, and this is from where they can generate, naturally generate their propaganda and spread it and draft people into their cause and so on, at a time where people started to feel totally lost. As a result of rising unemployment, lots of people were immigrating to the Gulf, loosing their houses loosing their land, and so from mid 70s to the 80s you have a complete redrawing of the social map and the political map, and you know, 77 was the peak sort of the democratic and social movement and then from then on, they had leak down, what you call it, not down fall, but downward movement, you know, downward spiral of that kind of movement and discourse and taking its lace was the Islamist and fundamentalist movement which sort of ended in the assassination of Sadat. And then the sudden realization of the government that we have create Frankenstein, you know, so started the codependency of the police on the presence of the fundamentalist movement to grow as a police state. And the fundamentalist movement to continue to be the victim of the state generating more and more sympathy and people for its movement. So we have been in that dualism for a very long time, I think you know, the attempt to break that dualism has been the job of so many people, in trying to sort of say there is another way, we don�t have to be one or the other. We don�t have to be either pro oppression and dictatorship or pro fundamentalism, which is another form of oppression and dictatorship. We all believed the 25th January did that, but you know, once more they both come in into the picture, and as always, helped by the superpowers that really don�t want you to be in the picture that much, don�t want the democratic movement to be in the picture that much, because it actually means free will, which is not really what you want when it comes to your free will to do with resources what you want. Anyway, that sort of leaps forward, so yeah, it ends, sort of my days of student activism sort of ended with the 1975 and my leaving Egypt for a few years, I came back in 79. Had to go to trial to reinstate myself in University, finished my diploma, my bachelor of arts, and started my Masters then, got married and began a sort of different type of activism which was, because I lived in Maadi near Hilwan, and I started� I then joined the, I became one of the people who founded the New woman Foundation, the New woman Organization, No, it was first called the New Woman Group, because as I said 1980s, the growth of the fundamentalist discourse and how it started to direct itself mainly against women, that was its front line sort of. Women were the cause of every ailment of society, the cause of unemployment, the cause of destruction of the family, the cause of everything. Basically, they were an easy scape goat and so a lot of laws from their perspective were being dictated, women had to go back home, raise their families, put on Hijab, because if they didn�t they would go to hell, and so on. This because their main point of attraction because they gave a solution to the people. We know our problems but this is why the problems exist and so this is the solution. And so many of us, not many but some, started looking at certain issues to address, not everything, not I a holistic way, but certain issues to address, that you need to develop your own discourse against and start formulate agenda you know, for these kinds of things. And I think that was the beginning of the emergence of different organizations, around certain issues as I was saying, whether it was women�s rights or things like arrests and tortures, when the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights was established and later on in the 90s you had a mushroom of different civil society organizations around every issue you can name, of course, in the beginning no one really thought of, we all volunteered our time and for me that continued with the New Woman Foundation work and other workers organizations and so on. But by the early 90s a lot of organizations were getting funded so people at least from our side, they maintain their relationship between volunteerism and people who were paid executives, or workers, not workers but executives, I mean staff. But a lot of organizations you know became professional bodies who were doing important work like you know, publishing yearly reports about the different violations in different areas, I think by end of the 90s also, people once more started to not only highlight the political violations but also the socio economic violations so that sort of returned and tat is important, because that some how was forgotten during those 10 years, it was always the issue of democracy as if it is isolated and the issue of police mishandling, you know, police violations ad torture and so on. But you know, it was very important to sort of look at the immense amount of the socio economic violations that were happening. And I think once that returned people were able to reconnect once more with a lot of the movements that were going on the ground by different sectors, whether they are farmers or being pushed out of their land after the law came out to gain some of the land that was being rented out to those farmers or workers who were still being paid but they were being paid what they were paid 30 years ago, at a time when prices were rising by 400 percent every year, which was incredible so yeah. So, that sort of continued in every point, you, and I as one of those people looking for what is the best way to break through that duality and at the same time to connect with the real issues on the ground to achieve democracy and social justice. And different strategies and different ways and different methods become necessary at different points, yeah. If you were able to look back and learn from people mistakes, that�s what we did.

NP: apart from The New Woman Group, where there any other initiatives or organizations you were involved in during this period?

HS: Yeah, I think even before I connected with the New Group, I knew all of the people who were there, I had sort of all belong to the same circle, I began to say that I was, through going down and working in Hilwan, which is a working class district and giving lessons on anti illiteracy and I met with a lot of people there and we start to work, through Al Tajamu party office there in Hilwan and we held different seminars around workers rights. And I think, at one time I was arrested there, because we tried to have a conference in the street, we got the chairs and I don�t know what, and we had a conference, and we also became active there around, if I remember, it was around the early 80s, the excursion into Lebanon by the Israeli, attempted occupying south of Lebanon, anyway so, we started to be active in Hilwan, ad from there I started to know a lot of people and we at that point, I think it was election activity at one point and at the end of it we decided that maybe it is important� because Tajamu would close its office whenever it wanted and it did not want too many people coming in anymore, it did not want to become popular. Yeah. Basically! And we had made it popular, we had a lot of activities, we volunteered for different things, we went down and I remember to an area close to Hilwan called Masara, which has an open sewage system, its absolutely horrific and we went around with different youth there, and we started asking people and the pharmacies what are the main illnesses that people suffer from, most of the medicines that they take and we discovered a lot of things and we got doctors to look at this, and then we had a petition for the council to shut down that sewage system, of course, they didn�t do anything but that also generated or started to get people together and build up their not only their interest but their enthusiasm for doing something. And so where do you go? We have the Tajamu office in Hilwan, lets go and meet and lets speak there. Now that disturbed the Tajamu leadership when they heard it, and they closed the office, so we had nowhere to meet basically, and that�s when we began to talk about well, what should we do? What we really need is a big place, from where we can, people can come and it can be theirs and they can own it and from there they can meet ad talk about their problems and start to organize in order to address these problems, and that started the whole Bashaier Organization, which took a very different root, although started as a� because we said female workers, what are their problems? Oh, it is the whole issue of nursing because they� although the law states that every 100 women working in a factory there has to be a nursery, always the factory employs 99 and cuts off at the hundred person in order not to have a nursery, so, we said let us start with a nursery. And that stayed for many, many years that activity and of course later what people wanted to do it has to be a model nursery with a very advanced education and ideas. So we sort of got involved in so many particulars and specifics and we had to learn these things ourselves because we were all volunteers. So, yeah, I got involved in that, but that whole institution evolved over time and we had different sections within it, one of them a cooperative for women where they produced certain things and sold it and took the profit, another one was also.. we began also to address things like violence against women, and there was a section, a lot of the women there were trained by something like Al Nadeem center for the rehabilitation of the victims of violence. They train them and they opened sectioned in Bashaier in order to work with women who were victims of violence. So it evolved and it has so many activities that it is involved in. and I think it sort of generated a lot of interest in the area and influenced a lot of other organizations in the area, to sort of immolate it, and it trained a lot of people in other foundations and associations in Hilwan to do, to take on similar activities, and by 97, I had been involved in the New Woman, in Bashaier then in the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights then in the founding of the center for trade union and workers rights, just its beginning I wasn�t one of the names who founded it but I helped them in their start. And so, I also started� of course in the middle of that I was working and I started to worked in the development sector, didn�t want to be a teacher, which is what you usually are if you are a graduate of the English Literature faculty but I started to work in some freelance work for UNICEF in evaluating projects and all of that, then I got a job in one of the organizations and then I went out and did my Masters in Sussex University, when I came back, I continued working with all these organizations, I think at that time it was, I was helping in the center of trade union and workers rights because I think I presented a paper with them and yeah, after a while I also started to feel like there is a need to look also at the whole experience that was going, and what was, why it was so limited and what are the problems? And because I was working as a freelance consultant at that time I was able to connect with a lot of organizations and help in a lot of organization startup, just start up through Identifying what were the problems in their areas ad how to formulate what you are going to do and so on. And in different parts of Egypt. So, that�s by 97 or 99, I decided not to work at all these big institutions like UNDP, I worked at UNDP for a while and I opened my own office, hoping that this could be some, a place that people were able to solve some f the issues and problems of how you can really build on those experiences, that is basically it.

NP: can I ask, is the Bashaier project still going today?

HS: Yah, it is still going on.

NP: can I ask how you managed your life, you were working, you were volunteering you are married, I mean, how did you personally manage to do all of this?

HS: with difficulty, I don�t know, looking back, I know it was difficult, but I think I always felt that in different points you give priorities to different things, sometimes when it is really urgent that you are there, you do it, and you give everything you got to it, but when you are, when your id needs you or your family there, you have to also be there, you have shut out everything else, so, I don�t think anything� I think I was always going with my gut feelings, I needed my family at certain points and I sort of needed to shut out some of those issues that are always conflicts, always conflicts. And I always need a time away from conflicts and I am not a person who enjoys conflict. So, yeah I think my family made peace for me, so juggling between that and the others is sort of comes through gut instinct and your own need to be able to be sane, but you do have a very full time agenda, you don�t have much time to relax except if you sort of� I remember for many, many years the idea of having a vacation was sort of alien. We didn�t have vacations, and when I met with people from different countries, and you know, they say this is the month where we take a vacation, I take it� lucky you! You actually take a month. So I think I didn�t even start to think about that until I reached my early 50s. I said well, I am going to take a month vacation. I think I did it only for 2 years and that was it, I went back to� so, yeah, I think that�s, you are very stressed out, you have a lot of pressure, you have a sense of responsibility and obligation that you are not able to escape ever� ever. ever, ever, and if you try to escape it, people are going to keep reminding you and tell you that you have to come, because it is important that you come, because you can make a difference and you know, that kind of constant blackmail and self blackmail are the most stressful. But yeah, I mean, it is still that, you attempt to steal a few moments for yourself and for your own sanity, and people who are close to you, your family and so on. So, that�s how. Don�t know if I was successful or not but I hope so.

NP: where does this sense of obligation come from?

HS: Yeah, that�s a problem. I think it came from very early on. Somehow when you get involved, and when you just put your foot down on that path on we will change the world, somehow, it grows with it, and as you continue and as you become more involved people make you feel that, okay, you are actually making a difference for this sense of obligation that grows with you, and it always makes you feel like �I cant go, I cant leave�, I remember when I was, when I had registered for my PhD, I didn�t want to stay two years, I stayed for one year, no 6 months, and I told them I can do the rest of the work there� and they told me, why? You have� I said, no, because my country needs me, I have to go back. And so that, its weird that you have that sense because a lot of people who were also involved didn�t have, they left and they immigrated, so I have always been thinking why do some of us have that sense� and it�s a false sense because life does go on without you, so why one has that sense that its important to be in the middle of these things, I have no idea, I am trying to make sense, but I have no idea why. But that�s all the answer I can give you, but it doesn�t make sense. As you can see, I have been trying to get out o the whole, my last experience, and I am not able to get out of it, although I did everything I could, that was funny. I had swore on everything that was� never to enter a political party again and then these friends came after the 25th January and told me, look, we have this Constitution party and we want you in it, and I said, no, I don�t want to�

TAPE 3

HS:� I am not entering any political party, I hate these kind of things, I hate the whole meetings issue and conflict and I cant stand it. I much prefer to be you know, in an open dialogue and an open place, and people working underground, and they stated insisting and Al Baradei he is going to be there, and there are a lot of people you don�t have to do anything. You just be one of the names and� so at the end I agreed. At that time a lot of people were entering Egypt, it was that sense of the country is changing and everyone had to give their bit, so I did, I entered on this basis and my leg was sort of pulled further and further in. could you when we are launching the party, could we ask you to sit on the panel beside Baradei and� okay, and I would understand because you want a woman there and a Copt, or whatever, and so I did it. And it goes on and on, then I was asked to be in the steering committee and I would say okay, but I ask very clearly, this is a transition period? And they said yes, this is just until we establish the main structure of the party then the steering committee would dissolve. And then apparently it gets to be put in the bylaws that the steering committee has to be there until the first conference, and you know, this continues to go on and on. And so I say okay I will stay until the conference, just before the conference and then I will resign, and I resigned. And once I resigned, because throughout those 2 years there were so many internal problems and fights, and I written, I was writing for myself but I wrote an analysis of what was happening and as I was telling you, suddenly this became for people, for young people in the party, well, she has a solution, lets gets her, so they started to bombard me with requests to come down and step into the position of the president of the party. And I refuse and refuse and refuse for 3 months, and then delegation starts coming, and people from different governates and so its lead me to where I am now. Going down into this experience of elections and I am not happy about it, you know, but I mean, the only thing that is good about it that people tell me, is that it brought hope to a lot of young people who were leaving the party and who had given up and people who apparently left the party and was coming back and this is good, if we can sort of offer a vision I think others can carry it out, I think that would be enough for me, then I would be able to rest and give up this whole sense of obligation and responsibility.

NP: I�ve got that on tape so I will hold you to that.

HS: good. Please do.

NP: can I ask the problem are within the Constitution Party are they ideological, are they of strategic tactical issues?

HS: No they are not ideological, I think they are mostly organizational. It is all about the lack of vision, the lack of political stance, and you know people came together on the three slogans, and there was nothing further than that. And the way the organization was done, you know, you have a figure, a figure head, who does have a vision n a way or a political savvy, but the vision is very vague, but he also has people around him who can trust, and so the whole Idea of different structures, they are not the ones who take the decisions its people around him who he trusts. So every decision that gets taken gets stopped somehow, and people who are on different governates and on different municipalities, levels of the structure, what they receive is that nothing is happening, you know, while the country is evolving very fast. The political reality keeps going from one step to the other, what�s our position? There is no position. And the only position is what you see, what Dr. Baradei comes out and says as an individual but as a party, it is somehow not, it lacks that strategic vision and how it translates into a specific objectives, and it supports its activities, and supports those people who do those activities, so linking between all of that does not exist and the people are very different the ones who are brought together. And so they are really not working together for one� towards one objective. And I think that you know, it generated a lot of anger, and there is a certain a rank and a file of the party and people didn�t know what on earth was going on, so they targeted certain people, we were really not the ones who caused this. And so those people left the party, so all of this I mean created a divisions within the party, some people like those people, and some people didn�t like those people, so they were divided so you have different factions within the party, not based on neither a political vision, nor an ideological division, but who you like and who you don�t like. And so, why people came to me? Is that I neither belonged to this group nor this group nor this group. So I was not part of any of those divisions, and I basically dealt with everyone based on political you know, stand. That�s why you know, partly people thought well, that woman, and that�s way they hanged on. This is what its been like for over a year now, people come to you and say, that person that is the one who belongs to this guy and this person belongs to this guy, it is that kind of thing. And because this Constitution party is made up over 90 percent are really the youth of the revolution, their only experience is that 2 or 3 years. There is very little content. And if the party doesn�t give that content, they get lost. And they get lost into these kind of conflicts, and that conflict take a place of reality, and how enthusiastic about it they are and the positions they have taken how violent it is, takes the resemblance of the revolution, you know, we are the revolutionists, so we are very determined. These people go this kind of thing. So its sad. Of course at this point in time, they are realizing that there are bigger issues, and that is ort of what I am trying to drill into the people now. If you don�t get your head out of your ass� I don�t say that way though, you are going to find a very different reality around us. We are facing some pretty big challenges, and start looking outwards and stop this inward looking, because yeah, you already brought the party down so if you don�t stop it, that�s it, go home, this is the only solution. And wait for another 20, 30 years until maybe someone else comes and� so, having said that, people are saying, okay, give us some answers. I go, well, I don�t have the answers, we have to come out with the answers collectively, again, if we can do that, then I think we should be honest enough to say lets leave it to someone else. That�s what�s been happening in the Constitution Party, is also happening in other political parties so. You know, I have been wondering, it has been happening in the leftist party, which is a coalitions between different left factions and it broke down after few years. So I am not sure what is going on in the social democratic party but I am hearing it is also having a lot of problems. But all of this is a part of the fact that, we have never had political parties growing and evolving in a democratic environment, this is the first time. Whether this democratic environment is to be maintained or a crack down is going to happen, we are still I think in the middle, it didn�t happen fully yet, there are pressures, but it didn�t happen yet. So, I still believe that these organization can evolve, these structures can evolve if there is a democratic environment allowing them to evolve and to address the problems they have been having and to develop some of the solutions, that is all.

NP: yeah, can I just quickly check on a few things, before the 25 January, were you involved of any of the initiatives or movements that emerged after 2000, like Kefaya or any�

HS: No, I wasn�t involved with Kefaya specifically but I was involved in a lot of Pickets and demonstrations, I remember there is one for the Sudanese refugees, there was a big crack on them, they were having a sit in in front of the UNHCR, it was incredible, horrific police brutality, so we went and had a stand a picket stand in protest. And there were several throughout the years. We had a lot of� it was never demonstrations because you were never allowed to move, you just stand on the pavement and you would be surrounded by thousands of policemen, so yeah, I was involved in sort of getting people used to be able to protest, I think that was the objective, so we had a lot of protests. But I wasn�t one of the people who were in Kefaya. That�s it, I cant remember of course all of the things.

NP: did you attend the demonstrations on the 25th January?

HS: not the 25th but the 28th, on the 25th we had a seminar, it was about it was, [inaudible: 15:37]� people from the region and some from international, from other organizations, it was addressing social justice issues, someone from Bolivia, someone from Brazil, and Morocco, and Tunisia, although the Tunisian people didn�t come because at that time they had their revolution, but anyway, it was all, we attempted to have this international campaign on three subjects, the right to water, the right to health and international labor standards, and we were as an office, we were sort of facilitating the adjoin campaign, and so it started on the 24, or 23, and went through January 28. So, it ended and all of these things were happening on the 25th, so all the Egyptians on the 25th disappeared, and all our staff disappeared, so we continued having it with our eyes on what is happening, and I think in the last days we said, look people we cant just sit ad talk anymore, I think what is happening is much more important, and so all the people even those who came from other countries understood that is what we want to do. So yeah, we all took to the streets on the 28th and that was quoit an experience, and of course onward of course, the whole 18 days, and I was there on that famous day of the attack with the canons, I was in Tahrir at that time, and we all slept in Tahrir Square, and it was pretty horrific to see all the people more dead and people carried and it was, yeah, it was very sad. That�s it. To see a person who is beside you and another woman who were dead, you know, those kinds of things, horrible experiences, and I think this generation has seen too much. I mean all we went through doesn�t come an inch near what they have been through. I wonder what in store for them what will they be doing in the future. Will they have the same sense of obligation and responsibility, because they had to carry their friends to the morgue and they have seen horrific things and they have done very noble things, I always think there is hope in the future and it is impossible you know, these people, this generation who did all of this, can lay down and take it. And that gives us some hope.

NP: I think it is good to end on that positive optimistic note. I like that.

HS: Yeah

NP: is there anything that I didn�t ask you that you think its important that you want to say?

HS: I think I have said everything.

NP: Okay, I thank you very much.

HS: You are very welcome, and good luck with your book.



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