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Sidewalk Stories

Women in Public Spaces in Cairo: Photo Exhibition, Panel Discussion, and Film Screening on June 22, 2016, in the Werkstatt der Kulturen

№ 220/2016 from Jun 20, 2016

An exhibition, panel discussion, and film screening on June 22, 2016, in the Werkstatt der Kulturen in Berlin will deal with women in public spaces in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. The exhibition will display portrait photographs of women in Cairo taken by the Egyptian artist Sarah Seliman. In the panel discussion scholars from Egypt and abroad will address women's rights, feminist activism, sexual harassment, and sexual violence in Egypt. The panel discussion will be followed by a screening of the documentary film Bent Bemeet Bent by Sarah Seliman (Arabic with English subtitles). In the film, women in Cairo describe their perceptions of gender roles, sexual harassment, and how they deal with both issues. The event is being organized by the NGO Mayadin al-Tahrir, the Sidewalk Stories project, and the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies. It is public, and admission is free.

"Five years after the mass protests on Cairo's Tahrir Square and in the face of a brutal police state that does not tolerate public criticism of social conditions, we wish to provide a forum for the issue of women's rights in Egypt," says Dr. Bettina Gräf, the managing director of the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies at Freie Universität Berlin. The panel discussion will focus on the question of whether in Egypt today there is any leeway in the fight for women's rights and where it might be found. The discussants will also address the issue of which structures in Egypt permit sexual violence to the extent that guidebooks for tourists explicitly warn women against visiting some Cairo neighborhoods. They will explore whether, in light of the equal participation of women in the protests in 2011, it is still possible to speak about gender discrimination and violence as a societal problem. In addition, they will address the role of the state in the phenomenon of sexual violence.

The panelists will be Bettina Dennerlein, a professor of gender studies and Islamic studies from the University of Zurich; Dina Wahba, a women's rights activist and political scientist from Freie Universität Berlin; Anna-Theresa Bachmann, a co-founder of the Sidewalk Stories Project at the University of Marburg; and Jannis Grimm from the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies. The moderator will be Asala Bader from the Berlin Institute for Empirical Research on Integration and Migration.

"Sidewalk Stories – Women in Cairo's Public Spaces" is a workshop project that was organized in 2015 by students at the University of Marburg. Two workshops were attended by 25 young women from different countries (Egypt, Brazil, Germany, Poland, and the United States) to discuss how their gender affects their freedom of movement in male-dominated public spaces in Cairo. The main emphasis was on sharing their experiences, as well as strategies, in an unbiased atmosphere. The workshop participants also discussed how society shapes their sexual identity and how sexual harassment affects their life in the city, which according to estimates by the United Nations, concerns 99.3 % of the women in Egypt.

Further Information

Time, Location, and Program


Dr. Bettina Gräf, Managing Director, Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-53260, Email: