Yasmin El-Rifae

Yasmin El-Rifae is a writer and co-producer of the Palestine Festival of Literature. She is at work completing her first book, a history of an extraordinary feminist resistance group within the Egyptian revolution. This website is a collection of her writings.

Portfolio

Selected Essays

Literary Hub
07/21/2017
Where Does Palestine Begin?

I'm sitting in my office in New York, lingering over the draft of an email I need to send to the staff. It explains my complicated trip through Saudi Arabia and Germany and Egypt, finally to Palestine for the festival.

Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
08/14/2014
The Air Was Hot with Hysterical Nationalism

A year ago I woke up in Cairo to the news of a massacre, the second of the summer. I was subletting a friend's apartment downtown, a beautiful place that gave me solitude above the blazing, dense insanity below while keeping me close to the small geography of my social life.

Full list

Literary Hub
07/21/2017
Where Does Palestine Begin?

I'm sitting in my office in New York, lingering over the draft of an email I need to send to the staff. It explains my complicated trip through Saudi Arabia and Germany and Egypt, finally to Palestine for the festival.

Mada Masr
07/12/2017
Defeat's possibilities: 3 activists recount 1967 as formative

It is June 3, and evening is falling on a rainy Paris. I have learned about the Festival Cine-Palestine, which has a screening of Al-Lail (The Night) by Syrian director Mohamed Malas. I watch with utmost attention the account of Quneitra, the Syrian town located in the Golan Heights and captured by Israel during the 1967 war.

Mada Masr
06/07/2017
Reaching

I have spent time in Palestine over the last five years as an organizer of the annual Palestine Festival of Literature , which just took place this May. *** Houses in Jerusalem's old city are small and built on top of one another, sharing courtyards and terraces.

the Guardian
02/16/2016
Giulio Regeni's death reminds us no one is safe from Egypt's brutal police

There is a scene filled with terrifying suspense in the 1995 French film La Haine. Police have detained two young men, having found them to be in possession of a small piece of hashish. They sit handcuffed to their chairs, side by side, as two cops beat and harass them.

Mada Masr
02/06/2016
That Metallic Sound That Hits Us

Waves of people have disappeared, been killed, too many count, too many to mourn properly. But Giulio’s death makes us confront the effect of this violence, of witnessing it, on our understanding of the world.

Mada Masr
07/21/2015
Circles about circles: On writing about sexual violence

I was part of Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), one of several groups that fought mob attacks against women in Tahrir from 2012 onward. This piece is about my efforts to write about the group and its work. ---I thought it would be easier from the distance of New York.

LRB blog
05/22/2015
PalFest on the Road

I am writing this in the car on the way from Haifa to Ramallah. Cell phones beep as we cross between Israeli and West Bank coverage. The view out the window has changed from the dark green mountains and manicured landscapes of northern Israel to the rocky textures of the West Bank mountains.

Muftah
06/12/2015
A Conference in Cairo

I walked through downtown Cairo on a quiet Friday morning in March 2015, late to a conference I had helped organize and a little bit anxious. The conference was about the political importance of translation - of language and concepts - in connecting protest movements to one another and allowing them to be narrated from ...

MEI
03/04/2015
Egypt's Economy: Hanging in the Balance

As 2014 drew to a close, the Egyptian economy was making international headlines. The Financial Times called Egypt the world's best destination for stock market investment.[1] Meanwhile, the Egyptian press documented a flurry of visits by delegations of businessmen from various economic superpowers.

Mada Masr
01/25/2015
Unauthorized memory

Yesterday they shot and killed a woman on Talaat Harb Street. She was walking, along with other members of the Socialist Alliance Party, through downtown to commemorate those killed since all of this started four years ago. Many of them were carrying flowers, wreaths to lay in Tahrir.

Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
08/14/2014
Yasmin El-Rifae: The Air Was Hot with Hysterical Nationalism

Image from Flickr via (flicts) By Yasmin El-Rifae A year ago I woke up in Cairo to the news of a massacre, the second of the summer. I was subletting a friend's apartment downtown, a beautiful place that gave me solitude above the blazing, dense insanity below while keeping me close to the small geography of my social life.

Cairo, again
05/25/2014
Moments ongoing

I am sitting in Ramallah reading this article about the controversy surrounding the deaths of two Palestinian teenagers, shot by Israeli bullets (one through the back) last week at a protest commemorating the Nakba. CCTV footage of the incident has been circulated over the past week; meanwhile the media quotes Israeli army sources claiming the...

Cairo, again
05/11/2014
Notes from a bridge

All this sickness has to go somewhere, and it seems it has gone directly to my stomach. In my belly is a rock of congealing violence; of fractured time and place; of the anxiety of powerlessness.I am at the border crossing from Jordan into Israel, in order to reach the West Bank.

Cairo, again
03/18/2014
Zero

The last few months rendered me mute for a while. Trying to take in all that has been happening in Egypt - the attacks, the killings, the arrests, the abuse of justice on every level possible - and do what little I could to work against it somehow crippled my mind and tied my tongue....

Mada Masr
01/18/2014
Egypt's courts

In 2006, a group of judges agitated to demand an investigation of the 2005 elections fraud, opening up the tumultuous question of the judiciary's independence. The movement had a loud media presence at the time.

MEI
01/06/2014
Egypt's Informal Economy | Middle East Institute

The black market for currency serves as an apt illustration of the allure of Egypt's informal economy, generally defined as enterprises that do not pay taxes and are not licensed by the government. Even for a trade as closely regulated by the government as currency exchange, a mirror market with looser rules that is often more advantageous for both buyers and sellers can develop.

Mada Masr
12/04/2013
The constitution of our symbols

I find myself craving the cinema these days. Something about the idea of images arranged into a purposeful narrative, characters with distinct conflicts to be either resolved or at least reflected on, is particularly appealing today. Or maybe the appeal is that of a clear arc, a moment of transformation, and maybe a message.

MEI
10/24/2013
Women & the Fight for Bodily Integrity in Egypt

The struggle for bodily integrity-a right broadly defined as the inviolability of the human body and the self-determination of humans over their bodies-has been at the center of revolutionary aspirations in Egypt.

Cairo, again
09/30/2013
Margins, islands, and homes

I recently moved from downtown to Zamalek, which feels increasingly like an island playground/food court. Running errands, I elbow my way through crowds of preppy young people standing around in brightly colored shorts, waiting for a table at a café or a burger from one of the half dozen new burger places.

Cairo, again
08/17/2013
Dispatches

This is the third time I've tried to write something about these nightmarish days in Egypt. The words that come out have been too hollow and disconnected to share, but I'm trying again. I don't have a laser-sharp analysis to provide, and I'm certainly not going to take a wild stab at predicting what will...

Jadaliyya
07/01/2013
No Apologies

Egypt at the moment feels like a series of battles and struggles, separated by geography but all ultimately linked together, hurtling towards some unknown destiny. People are dying, politicians are floundering. This post is about one fight: the one against sexual assault. The fight to free people's bodies from sexual violence is a global one.

Cairo, again
07/01/2013
No apologies

Egypt at the moment feels like a series of battles and struggles, separated by geography but all ultimately linked together, hurtling towards some unknown destiny. People are dying, politicians are floundering. This post is about one fight: the one against sexual assault. The fight to free people's bodies from sexual violence is a global one.

Cairo, again
06/27/2013
Waiting to rebel

On returning to Cairo I felt myself, while struggling with the physical difficulties of the city, brimming with positivity for it. There are a lot of interesting people doing interesting things in what is now an undeniably tremendous space for collective projects, campaigns, and interventions. After decades of living with the state's failure to address...

Muftah
07/25/2011
Four Walls: The Poor Struggle to Find a Voice in Post-Mubarak Egypt

We recently visited the area of Cairo known as the "City of the Dead," or "el-Ma'aber" (the graves) in Arabic. For decades, people have lived on the grounds of this cemetery, in rows of cardboard shacks, facing a high fence marking the edge of the cemetery. Behind them are thousands of graves.

Muftah
04/04/2011
Egypt in Limbo: The Counter-Revolution

Nearly two months after Hosny Mubarak stepped down, the revolution that ousted him has turned into a battle ground. The January 25 Revolution, as it is called, carried the nation to a euphoric high - in its aftermath, people talked of rebuilding Egypt, of changing the political landscape, of a national rebirth.

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