How a viral dance video sparked women’s rights debate in Egypt

A viral video of an Egyptian teacher dancing prompted her husband to divorce her and split the country.

A video of an Egyptian mother of three dancing has gone viral, prompting her husband to divorce her and her employer to fire her, renewing a heated debate over women’s rights.

Primary school teacher Aya Youssef, 30, was shown a short video on her phone, wearing a headscarf, pants and a long-sleeved top, dancing with colleagues and smiling as she enjoyed a river cruise. Nile.

But since its release earlier this month, the video has been widely shared on social media with mixed opinions.

Some critics have accused her of violating society’s conservative values, while others have steadfastly supported her.

Egypt has witnessed multiple cases of women being defamed on social media in recent years, fueling angry demands for those responsible to be held accountable.

Just as rights groups warn Expanded repression of freedom President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been working in the North African country since he took office in 2014.

Yusuf said in a recent interview with a private TV channel that she was “happy” on the trip and that her actions were “spontaneous.”

Other colleagues danced with her on the boat in the sun, some waving in the air.

fired, then reinstated

But after the video was shared online, some viewers made harsh comments about what they deemed “inappropriate”.

One Twitter user said the teacher’s behaviour was “shameful”, while another said he “couldn’t understand how a married woman could dance in such an obscene way”.

But in a country where 90 percent of women aged 18 to 39 reported being harassed in 2019, others supported it.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Ministry of Education in the Dakaria region northeast of Cairo referred the teacher to a disciplinary committee, where she was fired from her job in the city of Mansoura. In the outcry that followed, she was reinstated this week.

Nihad Abu al-Qumsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, defended the teacher and offered her a job.

“We will ask the court about the correct dance rules – so that all women dance to the correct rules at their brother’s or son’s wedding or birthday,” al-Qumsan said sarcastically.

The fact that Yusuf’s husband also divorced her after watching the video drew an angry reaction from prominent Egyptian actress Somaia Kashab, saying it showed a double standard.

“Why don’t men bring their wives back?” Hashab asked.

“For example, there are a lot of women who stand by their men even when they’re in prison, or don’t abandon their husbands when their situation worsens.”

Youssef told Egypt’s El-Watan newspaper that she did not know who posted the video online, but promised legal action against those who “defamed and destroyed her home”.

This is not the first case of online shaming to spark outrage in Egypt.

Two young men were arrested this week after a 17-year-old schoolgirl committed suicide last month.

She reportedly swallowed poison after she refused to have an affair with the photo after she was allegedly blackmailed by digitally doctored photos.

Last July, a Cairo court sentences two women They were sentenced to six and 10 years in prison for “violating public morals” after they posted the TikTok video.

They are one of a dozen social media “influencers” arrested in 2020 for “attacking social values” in Egypt.

Egypt has long been considered the birthplace of belly dancing, but in recent years some belly dancers and pop singers have been targeted for online content deemed too erotic or suggestive.

Egypt’s population of indigenous dancers is shrinking, largely because the country has become more conservative over the past half-century, the industry’s notoriety has grown, and the crackdown on freedom has widened.