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Human Rights Defender: Riham Bahi

Riham Bahi Profile Image Quote: Women are active in the streets of Egypt, and they are defending women's rights. They are defending their voices to be heard and they reject marginalization.

After seeing thousands of women and men demonstrate side-by-side in Tahrir Square during Egypt's 2011 revolution, Dr. Riham Bahi hoped her country's patriarchal culture had changed. But post-revolution, she realized that women's rights were left behind.

"While Egyptian women are ready to actively seek change in society, the culture is still not ready to see them in public places or in a public sphere," said Dr. Bahi, a scholar of Islamic and secular feminism and associate professor at the American University of Cairo.

She actively works toward this change by challenging both her students and religious leaders to re-think and re-read the Koran for gender justice.

She believes she and her fellow Muslim women scholars play a key role in the reinterpretation of their religion and modernization of their societies.

"As a Muslim, I believe that Islam came with a feminist revolution in Arabia. But what we have right now is a very patriarchal, traditional understanding of Islam, and this understanding is widespread," said Bahi.

Bahi urges religious leaders to support women's rights and gender justice in Egypt by leading their followers "back to the true essence of religion" to recover the equality and democratic nature at the heart of Islam.

Despite their exclusion from formal state-building positions - women received two percent of parliamentary seats in 2012 elections - women continue to be active in shaping society through nongovernmental networks.

"Women are active in the streets of Egypt, in upper Egypt in the rural areas," she said. "They are defending their voices to be heard, and they reject marginalization."