A group of twelve female students from Misr University in Cairo arrived in London on August 19, geared up to attend a Thomson Reuters Foundation training course and eager to deliver an important message: ‘Egypt is not on the brink of civil war - and the country will find its way out of the crisis without any foreign intervention’.
Their optimism and enthusiasm didn't go unnoticed and the students headed back to Cairo with copies of a full page spread in the Evening Standard featuring their stories and photos, and the experience of being interviewed by one of the BBC’s most popular and influential radio shows: The Today Programme, which reaches an audience of over 7 million listeners.
On Wednesday, Aug. 21, Yara Yousry, Merna Tawfik, Hilda Momen Herky and Injy Mazhar told BBC Radio 4 host Sarah Montague how the political upheaval in Egypt is affecting their daily lives.
“In the past few weeks, we woke up to a completely new reality: people fighting on the streets, violence everywhere,” said Merna. “We are now even witnessing a spike in violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and between Muslims and Christians, something completely new to the country,” added Yara.
But the students’ message was also full of hope. In the words of Merna: “violence will end soon, Egyptians won’t put up with this much longer.”
Injy offered a refreshing perspective: “Egypt is not a divided country.Yes, there is disagreement, I can spend the morning with my friends arguing about politics, but in the evening we go shopping together. We are still friends, we are not going to lose each other.”
On Thursday, Aug. 22, the Evening Standard, London’s leading regional evening newspaper, ran a full page spread on the four students featuring their personal accounts on the crackdown on women's rights in Cairo. Injy admitted she had been harassed on the streets of her quiet residential neighborhood.
“The last year was horrible,” she recalled. “I was harassed as a woman for the first time. I got verbal abuse and I was horrified to find that these people actually touched me. My fault was that I was not wearing the veil — these men were telling me that I am not a Muslim.”
The full radio and print interviews of the students are also available on the Thomson Reuters Foundation Facebook page.