Mona Eltahawy

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Mona Eltahawy
منى الطحاوي
Mona Eltahawy at MIT Media Lab's 2018 Disobedience Awards
Mona Eltahawy at MIT Media Lab's 2018 Disobedience Awards
Born (1967-08-01) August 1, 1967 (age 54)
Port Said, Egypt[1]
NationalityEgyptian, American
EducationThe American University in Cairo

Mona Eltahawy (Arabic: منى الطحاوى‎, IPA: [ˈmonæ (ʔe)t.tˤɑˈħɑːwi]; born August 1, 1967) is a freelance Egyptian-American[2] journalist and social commentator based in New York City. She has written essays and op-eds for publications worldwide on Egypt and the Islamic world, including women's issues and Muslim political and social affairs. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Miami Herald among others. Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy's first book, was published in May 2015. Eltahawy has also been a guest analyst on U.S. radio and television news shows. She is also acknowledged as one of the people who spearheaded the Mosque Me Too movement through the usage of the hashtag #MosqueMeToo.[3][4][5][6]

Eltahawy has also spoken publicly at universities, panel discussions and interfaith gatherings on human rights and reform in the Islamic world, feminism and Egyptian Muslim–Christian relations in addition to her other concerns.

Early life[edit]

Eltahawy was born in Port Said, Egypt.[7] Her family moved to the UK when she was 7 and then to Saudi Arabia when she was 15. She graduated from the American University in Cairo[7] in 1990 with a bachelor's degree and in 1992 she earned a master's degree in Mass Communication with a concentration in Journalism.[8]


Eltahawy was a news reporter throughout the 1990s, and a correspondent for the Reuters News Agency in Cairo and Jerusalem.[9] She has written news and opinion articles for The Guardian, the International Herald-Tribune, The Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report,[10][11] and The New York Times.[12] In September 2020 she started a newsletter on Substack, Feminist Giant.[12]

She moved to the United States in 2000[9] and gained American citizenship in 2011.[13]

From 2003 to 2004, Eltahawy was managing editor of the Arabic-language version of Women's eNews, an independent, non-profit news website that covers women's issues from around the world.[11][14]

She wrote a weekly column for the Saudi-owned, London-based international Arab publication Asharq Al-Awsat from 2004 to 2006 before her articles were discontinued by editor Tariq Alhomayed for being "too critical" of the Egyptian regime.[15]

On November 24, 2011, she was one of numerous journalists arrested by the Egyptian authorities while covering renewed protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square. She was held in custody for 12 hours, during which time she was interrogated, and both physically and sexually assaulted.[16] Her left arm and right hand were fractured.[10]

On September 25, 2012, Eltahawy was arrested for spraypainting over an American Freedom Defense Initiative advertisement in a New York City Subway station that read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad".[17] [18] Toward the end of the incident two police officers approached the area and arrested her. In an interview on CNN, she confirmed she was arraigned and charged with Criminal Mischief, Making Graffiti, and Possession of a Graffiti Instrument. She defended herself by saying what she had done was freedom of expression and that her actions were civil disobedience.[19]

Eltahawy's first book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, was published in the United States on April 21, 2015, by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.[20] The book is based on a piece about misogyny in Arab society entitled "Why Do They Hate Us?", which she wrote for Foreign Policy in 2012.[21]

In September of 2019, Eltahawy released her second book, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls.[22]

Politics and views[edit]

Eltahawy was a board member of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America during its existence from 2004 to 2006.[23]

Eltahawy has criticised both the regime of Hosni Mubarak and the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, referring to both as "old, out-of-touch men". In an interview in February 2011, she also expressed certainty that the Muslim Brotherhood could not "gain the support of the majority of Egyptians".[24] In November 2011, Eltahawy faced repercussions by Egyptian security forces as a result of her criticism. Eltahawy was covering the protests at Tahrir Square when she was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by Egyptian riot police, breaking both of her arms.[25]

In 2009, The Economist said that Eltahawy used the phrase "the opium of the Arabs" referring to Israel, describing, as the magazine elaborated, "an intoxicating way for them to forget their own failings or at least blame them on someone else. Arab leaders have long practice of using Israel as a pretext for maintaining states of emergency at home and putting off reform."[26]

Eltahawy speaks out on behalf of women's rights in the Arab world, including attacking female genital mutilation. In a May 2012 article in Foreign Policy, she wrote, "Name me an Arab country, and I'll recite a litany of abuses [of women] fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend."[27] She described herself as "a secular, radical feminist Muslim" in a 2011 interview.[28]

Eltahawy is a supporter of LGBTQ rights all over the world and an African (Egyptian) Arab supporter as well as an anarchist feminist.[29]

In 2020, Eltahawy began publishing personal essays and political commentary via her newsletter, Feminist Giant.[30]

In the wake of the new restrictive abortion laws in Texas; Mona came forward strongly to oppose it as she had warned of this before and shared how she had undergone two abortions before; one illegal abortion in Egypt at 29 and another legal abortion in Seattle; United States four years later when she was married and moved to the United States.[31]

Awards and honors[edit]


  • Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2015)
  • The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls (2019)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Critical Voices 3 - Speakers - Details: Mona Eltahawy". The Arts Council. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  2. ^ Ratnam, Dhamini (April 19, 2017). "I Complicate the Image of Muslim Women: Mona Eltahawy". The Wire.
  3. ^ "Muslim Women Are Speaking Out About Abuse". Time. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  4. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (2018-02-15). "Opinion | #MosqueMeToo: What happened when I was sexually assaulted during the hajj". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  5. ^ "#MosqueMeToo: Women share experiences of sexual harassment inside religious places". The Times of India. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  6. ^ Amidi, Faranak (2018-02-09). "Muslim women rally round #MosqueMeToo". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  7. ^ a b McTighe, Kristen (2012-07-18). "Egyptian Combats Both Army and Islamists". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  8. ^ Rabie, Passant (December 2009). "Egyptian-born, US-based Journalist Mona Eltahawy Challenges the Stereotype of the Arab Woman". Egypt Today. 30. Archived from the original on 2010-07-30.
  9. ^ a b "Interview with Mona Eltahawy - Revolution in Cairo". Frontline. PBS. 9 February 2011. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  10. ^ a b "Mona Eltahawy Reportedly Detained, Sexually Assaulted In Egypt", The Huffington Post, November 24, 2011
  11. ^ a b "Staff and Contributors Bios". Women's eNews. February 3, 2004. Archived from the original on February 3, 2004. Retrieved 2013-12-07.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ a b Silverberg, David (June 10, 2021). "'I can speak freely and use swear words as I see fit'". Business. BBC News. Retrieved 2021-06-10.
  13. ^ Penny, Laurie (2012-05-17). "Mona Eltahawy: Egypt's angry young woman". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  14. ^ Henley, Rita (May 18, 2003). "Women's eNews Celebrates Third Anniversary". Women's eNews. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  15. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (June 19, 2006). "A perilous dance with the Arab press". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
  16. ^ Malik, Shiv. "Journalist Mona Eltahawy alleges sexual assault in Egypt detention", The Guardian, November 24, 2011
  17. ^ "Woman Arrested for Marring Anti-Jihad NY Subway Ad". ABC News. Associated Press. September 26, 2012. Archived from the original on September 29, 2012.
  18. ^ "Egyptian-American journalist explains defacement of 'racist' subway ad". Retrieved 2020-11-29.
  19. ^ "Columnist defaces poster, arrested" (video). CNN. September 28, 2012. Retrieved 2020-11-29.
  20. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (April 21, 2015). Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0865478039.
  21. ^ Aspden, Rachel (June 12, 2015). "Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy – review". The Guardian. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  22. ^ "The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy: 9780807002582 | Books". Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  23. ^ a b "Bio: Mona Eltahawy". Palestine Note. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  24. ^ "Interview with Mona Eltahawy - Revolution in Cairo - FRONTLINE - PBS". FRONTLINE.
  25. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (2011-12-23). "Bruised but defiant: Mona Eltahawy on her assault by Egyptian security forces". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  26. ^ "Which way will they go?" 23 July 2009, The Economist.
  27. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (May/June 2012). "Why Do They Hate Us", Foreign Policy
  28. ^ "Mona Eltahawy with Yasmine El Rashidi". Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  29. ^ "Mona Eltahawy: "Patriarchy is the form of oppression with which the entire world struggles"". CCCB LAB. 2019-06-04. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  30. ^
  31. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (26 September 2021). "Abortion is Normal:On Being Brave". Feminist Giant.
  32. ^ a b "Mona Eltahawy". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  33. ^ "Muslim Women: Past and Present - Mona Eltahawy". Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality. Archived from the original on 2013-10-02. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  34. ^ "Pénélope Bagieu & Mona Eltahawy in Conversation". ALBERTINE. 2018. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  35. ^ Malik, Shiv (2011-11-24). "Journalists reveal harrowing sexual assaults in Egypt". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  36. ^ "Mona Eltahawy - Power 500 2012". Arabian Business. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  37. ^ The Women’s Media Center Announces The 2015 Women’s Media Awards Honorees Archived 2017-06-08 at the Wayback Machine Women's Media Center website
  38. ^ The Africa Report"The 100 most influential Africans (51-60)". 2019-03-21. Retrieved 2019-11-17.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Mona Eltahawy". Contemporary Authors Online. Gale Literature Resource Center.
  • Lichter, Ida. Muslim women reformers: inspiring voices against oppression. Prometheus Books. OCLC 690066119.

External links[edit]