By Diana Moukalled
16 June 2015
“They dragged me, stripped me, beat me up and stepped on me as if I were an insect,” Egyptian activist Hend Nafea said while in hospital, describing what happened to her in 2011 when she took part in protests against military rule. Her testimony was not easy. In Egypt, it is common to blame women for being attacked, particularly when expressing their right to protest.
A few weeks ago, amid the life sentences and executions being issued by the Egyptian judiciary, Nafea was sentenced to life in prison over accusations of sabotage and terrorism. It went largely unnoticed that she turned from victim to defendant, something many others have experienced. Shaima al-Sabbagh, who was killed in front of cameras while protesting, was blamed for being killed, rather than the security forces that shot her dead.
Four years after her ordeal, Nafea - who has left Egypt - appeared in “The Trials of Spring,” a six-part series presented by the New York Times about women who played important roles in their countries during the Arab Spring. Her appearance stirred media-led accusations of treason.
In the movie, Nafea recalls what happened to her and how family ties were broken. She also talks of her bitterness about being regarded as an offender rather than a victim. She describes how she followed up on the details of her trial online, and how her lawyer said he was prevented from attending trial sessions.
There is currently a media uproar in Egypt that is devoid of facts. For example, it is easy to say that the Human Right Watch (HRW) report on increasing suppression and violations is politicized, and that the El-Nadim Center report documenting killings and torture harms state prestige. However, this uproar cannot conceal facts. Nafea’s story, which could not be heard in Egypt, will be heard by the rest of the world thanks to “The Trials of Spring.”
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.