Sisters in the vanguard as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood battles to survive

December 16, 2014
(Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi walk in the rain during a protest at Al-Haram street, in Cairo December 13, 2013. With many of its male members jailed, Egypt's besieged Muslim Brotherhood is calling up an unlikely reserve force against the army-backed government in the conservative Arab country. At more and more protests, female members of the Islamist movement can be seen taking on security forces mounting one of their fiercest crackdowns against the group. REUTERS/Stringer)

(Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi walk in the rain during a protest at Al-Haram street, in Cairo December 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer)

In homes and streets around Egypt, women are keeping alive a group the authorities are determined to crush. They teach Muslim Brotherhood values to children, organise its protests, preserve its networks, and take an ever more prominent role in politics.

The Brotherhood has been in retreat since the army overthrew elected Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in July 2013, launching a crackdown that has seen it banned as a terrorist group and thousands of its members jailed.

With most Brotherhood leaders in jail or exile, women who have long lived in their shadow have been thrust into the vanguard of the organisation’s battle for survival.

Long accustomed to a supportive role focused on education and social work, the experience of the past 17 months, however bitter, has imbued the female members of the Muslim Brotherhood, known as Muslim Sisters, with new confidence.

In a patriarchal and conservative movement, it is unclear how far they can go, but for many, there is no turning back.

“Our experience has shown that we can lead. We might make mistakes but we fix them and move on and that’s better than standing on the sidelines,” said Heba, a Muslim Sister in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria. “We won’t go back.”

Read the full story by Lin Noueihed here.

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