• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683.


Tunisian and Egyptian Women Talk About Their Revolutions


Several women union leaders fresh from the frontlines in Tunisia and Egypt visited California at the invitation of the Sacramento Labor Council, AFL-CIO. They first appeared at the August 16 Women of Labor conference attended by 200 women union leaders throughout the state.

In the days following, there have been other fruitful exchanges between the overseas guests and their American audiences who were quite eager to learn and, perhaps, shed some Western misconceptions about the role of women in the rebellions marking the region.

“Until now men have always considered us second class,” explained Nahed Ben Dakhla, a Women’s Committee member from Tunisia’s powerful national trade union federation, UGTT.

But in both Tunisia and Egypt, she emphasized to a August 18 meeting in San Francisco‘s Mission district, “men saw us in the front lines preventing the police from making contact. We stood between them and police bullets.

“As a result of mass participation by both men and women struggling together, the revolution has changed everything. There has been an awakening of a communal spirit. We are not going back.”

Stepping closer to me with lots of emotion in her face, Nahed passionately conveyed a dramatic image from those early days of police violence in the region where hundreds were killed and thousands injured. These losses are deeply imbedded in the consciousness of millions.

Not Just an Empty Slogan of Bravado

“The revolution has changed everything, we are not going back” was a mantra I heard often repeated on the streets of Cairo when I arrived last February, only a few hours after President Hosni Mubarak’s forced resignation. I heard it voiced again by Nahed and others on the podium in San Francisco now some six months later.

This should not be misread as shallow enthusiasm. Enshrined in mass consciousness is the belief, and even the expectation, that possibilities for change are endless.

This emotional spirit embodies the political conviction that “there is no going back” and is one major reason the mass reform movements in both Tunisian and Egypt have not been sidelined or demobilized by still-entrenched remnants of the old regimes.

The momentum continues according to Marwa Khalil Farghali Khalil, General Secretary of the influential Public Tax Authority Union in Egypt. With some deserved pride, she announced to the San Francisco meeting that “there were four independent unions before the January revolution. Now, we have 88 new unions with a membership of 250,000 in our Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU).”

“And our Tunisian national trade union federation (UGTT),” echoed Ayda Zerai, secretary general of a garment workers local union, “has grown 35 per cent since the uprising. We are now 700,000 as a result of the prominent role we played in challenging the regime leading to the downfall of dictator Ben Ali.

“Without labor, there would have been no revolution in Tunisia!” Ayda proclaimed.

All speakers agreed, there are big opportunities, along with major challenges, to really change society. “When the Prime Minister told the UGTT to stop striking and protesting, we refused. The government does not have much power because they refuse to follow through on the hopes of the revolution.

“We in the UGTT persisted and recently won a five per cent wage increase, not just for our members but for all Tunisian workers,” Ayda told an enthusiastic audience that immediately erupted into cheers.

The women unionists from Egypt told of a similar focus by the EFITU to continue strikes and protests as necessary in order to achieve economic and social reforms. Their persistence also resulted several months ago in substantial increases in wages and benefits.

The Revolution is Incomplete

“Our revolution is not finished” was another theme of the speakers. In Tunisia, for example, many democratic reforms have yet to be achieved. “Women have not been appointed to key positions of power and we are hoping this changes with the revolution,” Nahed said.

Madga Mohamed Ibrahim, a leader of the very active Sales Tax Union in Egypt, followed her Tunisian sister by acknowledging that the “representation of women is still inadequate on all levels.”

Marwa was clearly speaking for the whole delegation from both countries when she commented that “the main obstacle is to rid us of all levels of the old regime, not just the top but mid-level too. We need further cleansing,” she said to big applause.

One Last Thing

My interview ended late at night as the speakers were rushing to their hotel to rest after ending their Ramadan Muslim religious Fast and before another very early morning speaking engagement. But Marwa stopped me to make a point she wanted very much to emphasize.

“Women now comprise fifty per cent of the free trade unions (EFITU) national membership. That being said, we are not about to go back.” She clearly wanted me to fully appreciate the determination of women to push forward.

I took the opportunity to sneak in another question and asked her what she learned about American people during her short stay. I observed that there was good and bad in this country with the bad including lots of discrimination against Muslims.

Marwa nodded in agreement and said that before leaving Egypt, her union hosted an American delegation that discerningly readied her for what to expect. But since arriving, she said approvingly, “I have changed my mind about America.”

The translator, a native Arabic-speaker now residing in this country for sometime, quickly, and knowingly, cautioned me that the women had only appeared before very friendly audiences.

Our resident translator, it seems, picked up on the quandary we Americans know only too well – our better side does not always represent the whole.

Carl Finamore is Machinist Local Lodge 1781 delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He wrote several dispatches from Cairo in the days immediately following President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation and can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots