Yasmin El-Rifae

Yasmin El-Rifae is a writer and editor. Her first book, Radius, was published by Verso in 2022. She is a coproducer of The Palestine Festival of Literature.



The New York Review of Books
Rape and Resistance in Egypt | Ursula Lindsey

Rifae also tells us, “I want everything in this book to be true.” She achieves this by stripping her story down to its bones. Every line reads as if it’s been carefully weighed, gauged for strength and utility, found capable of bearing the truth.

The Baffler
Revolutionary Interventions | Tareq Baconi

Calling out the patriarchy in the Arab world without succumbing to imperialist and racist tropes projected onto the Middle East is a fine balancing act, one that El-Rifae accomplishes in Radius.

Library Journal
| Library Journal

A story like this was bound to be impactful, but in Egyptian journalist El-Rifae's hands, it comes to life in a mesmerizing and unforgettable way. This book focuses on the story of a group of people who banded together during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Kirkus Reviews
RADIUS | Kirkus Reviews

Powerful testimony of the Egyptian revolution destroying itself and the courageous people who hoped to save it.

Selected Essays

World Records - An exploration of what documentary is, and what it might become.
We, in the City - World Records

I wrote most of this essay in my last months in Cairo, before moving away for what felt like the last time. I came to the page to make sense of the alienation and grief I was feeling toward the city, which I was seeing reflected back by people around me.

Lux Magazine
Chasing Language: Geography, Gender Neutrality, and Unfree Speech

I tried to be open and cool. I needed to talk about what happened but I was reluctant to take up too much space, aware of the editors across the table from me who were exiled from Syria, of the Palestinian activist living under Israeli occupation, of the absence of anyone from Iraq, from Yemen.

Full list

Mada Masr
We've broken the silence - now what?

It’s costly to talk about sexual violence. It’s costly for the victim speaking out. It’s costly for other women who feel called on to show solidarity, especially on the policed and trolled terrain of social media. It’s costly for the collective audience, so many of whom are retraumatized. More than this, sexual violence becomes overwhelming, it becomes another spectacle: the fact that women are talking about rape becomes the story itself.

Mada Masr
Double authorship: A conversation on I May Destroy You

Since the days of and Breaking Bad , great television now mostly exists for me as a sort of mirage I delusionally think I'm moving toward as I scroll through Netflix, mindlessness and mediocre content feeding one another like a snowball.

Mada Masr
Language after brutality

I have to start this piece by discarding an old one. I had written something, just a few days ago, in response to the news that Alaa Abdel Fattah was beaten in jail.

Literary Hub
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
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

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.

Mada Masr
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
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
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.

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 ...

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
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
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
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
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

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
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.

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
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.

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
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

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...

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
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
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...

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.

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.


Los Angeles Review of Books
Foundations of Solidarity: A Conversation with Yasmin El-Rifae

IN THE WAKE of the intensifying resistance to the occupation of Palestine, the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States (and beyond), and such movements as #StandWithStandingRock, appeals for solidarity with the plight of migrants, occupied populations, racialized minorities, and Indigenous peoples have become culturally pervasive.

BOMB Magazine
BOMB Magazine | Within the Revolution: Yasmin El-Rifae Interviewed

You couldn't get it in Cairo, obviously. The book had been out for three weeks by the time I managed to find a copy on a trip to Toronto. My best friend Mariam had already read it and sent me a string of trigger warnings. "It's great," she said.