Video Link. 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz of Egypt recorded this video on January 18th, uploaded it to YouTube, and shared it on her Facebook. Within days, the video went viral within Egypt and beyond.
"Whoever says women shouldn't go to the protests because they will get beaten, let him have some honor and manhood and come with me on January 25th" she says in the video, "They don't even have to go to Tahrir Square, just go anywhere and say it: that we are free human beings."
And she condemns the couch potatoes and armchair internet activists, in no uncertain terms.
"Sitting home and just following us on news or on Facebook leads to our humiliation — it leads to my humiliation!," she says in the video.
"If you have honor and dignity as a man, come and protect me, and other girls in the protest. if you stay home, you deserve what's being done to you, and you will be guilty before your nation and your people. Go down to the street, send SMSes, post it on the internet, make people aware."
The video is popularly credited with helping inspire fellow Egyptians by the thousands to participate in protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, calling for an end of the 30-year authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak. The video is also credited with helping to inspire the Egyptian government to block Facebook. Whether it's accurate to credit this one video, and this one young woman, with all of that, I'll leave to activists in Egypt who know the history better than I. But at the very least, her powerful video captures the spirit of an important moment in history.
The video is the subject of a New York Times piece today on the role of Egyptian women in the popular uprising, "Equal Rights Takes to the Barricades," by Mona el-Naggar:
"As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go down and take a stance, then there will be hope." That was what Ms. Mahfouz had to say in a video she posted online more than two weeks ago. She spoke straight to the camera and held a sign saying she would go out and protest to try to bring down Mr. Mubarak's regime.
This was certainly not the first time a young activist used the Internet — later virtually shut down by the government — as a tool to organize and mobilize, but it departed from the convenient, familiar anonymity of online activism.
More than that, it was a woman who dared put a face to the message, unfazed by the possibility of arrest for her defiance. "Do not be afraid," she said.