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 55)
Port Said, United Arab Republic
(present-day 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, on topics including women's rights, patriarchy, 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 been a guest analyst on U.S. radio and television news shows. She is among people who spearheaded the Mosque Me Too movement by using the hashtag #MosqueMeToo.[3][4][5][6]

Eltahawy has spoken publicly at universities, panel discussions and interfaith gatherings on human rights and reform in the Islamic world, feminism and Egyptian Muslim–Christian relations, among 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 & 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 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 the regimes of both Hosni Mubarak and the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, referring to them as "old, out-of-touch men". In an interview in February 2011, she said 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. Covering the protests at Tahrir Square, she was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by Egyptian riot police, breaking both of her arms.[25]

In 2009, The Economist said 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 women's rights in the Arab world, 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 a 2012 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) interview with Piya Chattapadhyay, Eltahawy "says being civil, respectful and polite are ineffective, and instead women must harness the seven qualities — or "necessary sins" — of anger, attention, ambition, power, profanity, violence and lust." Later she asked people to "imagine a scenario in which we kill a certain number of men every week. How many men must we kill until patriarchy sits across the table from us and says, "OK, stop. What must we do, so that you can stop this culling?" Now I'm saying imagine. I'm not saying go out there and kill 100 men today. I'm saying, just imagine this very, very disturbing scenario."[30]

In 2020, Eltahawy began publishing personal essays and political commentary via her newsletter, Feminist Giant.[31]

In the wake of new restrictive abortion laws in Texas, Eltahawy spoke up to oppose them, having previously warned of developments of this kind. She declared that she had undergone two abortions: one illegal procedure in Egypt when she was 29 and a legal one in Seattle, United States, four years later when she was married.[32]

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. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  2. ^ Ratnam, Dhamini (April 19, 2017). "I Complicate the Image of Muslim Women: Mona Eltahawy". The Wire. Archived from the original on February 14, 2018. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  3. ^ "Muslim Women Are Speaking Out About Abuse". Time. Archived from the original on 2018-09-29. 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. Archived from the original on 2019-05-22. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  5. ^ "#MosqueMeToo: Women share experiences of sexual harassment inside religious places". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2018-07-31. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  6. ^ Amidi, Faranak (2018-02-09). "Muslim women rally round #MosqueMeToo". BBC News. Archived from the original on 2018-03-10. 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. Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. 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. Archived from the original on 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  10. ^ a b "Mona Eltahawy Reportedly Detained, Sexually Assaulted In Egypt" Archived 2017-10-19 at the Wayback Machine, 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.{{cite web}}: 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. Archived from the original on 2021-06-10. Retrieved 2021-06-10.
  13. ^ Penny, Laurie (2012-05-17). "Mona Eltahawy: Egypt's angry young woman". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2013-12-20. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  14. ^ Henley, Rita (May 18, 2003). "Women's eNews Celebrates Third Anniversary". Women's eNews. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  15. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (June 19, 2006). "A perilous dance with the Arab press". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 4, 2015. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
  16. ^ Malik, Shiv. "Journalist Mona Eltahawy alleges sexual assault in Egypt detention" Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, 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". Archived from the original on 2022-05-03. Retrieved 2020-11-29.
  19. ^ "Columnist defaces poster, arrested" (video). CNN. September 28, 2012. Archived from the original on 2020-12-09. 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". Archived from the original on 2020-09-25. 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. Archived from the original on 2017-08-28. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
  25. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (2011-12-23). "Bruised but defiant: Mona Eltahawy on her assault by Egyptian security forces". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2019-04-07. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  26. ^ "Which way will they go?" Archived 2012-06-02 at the Wayback Machine 23 July 2009, The Economist.
  27. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (May/June 2012). "Why Do They Hate Us" Archived 2014-11-28 at the Wayback Machine, Foreign Policy
  28. ^ "Mona Eltahawy with Yasmine El Rashidi". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  29. ^ "Mona Eltahawy: "Patriarchy is the form of oppression with which the entire world struggles"". CCCB LAB. 2019-06-04. Archived from the original on 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  30. ^ "'I want patriarchy to fear women': Mona Eltahawy says the time for being civil, peaceful and polite is over". CBC Radio. Out in the Open. September 27, 2019. Archived from the original on January 14, 2022. Retrieved January 14, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  31. ^ "FEMINIST GIANT | Mona Eltahawy | Substack". Archived from the original on 2021-04-15. Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  32. ^ Eltahawy, Mona (26 September 2021). "Abortion is Normal:On Being Brave". Feminist Giant. Archived from the original on 2 October 2021. Retrieved 30 September 2021.
  33. ^ a b "Mona Eltahawy". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  34. ^ "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.
  35. ^ "Pénélope Bagieu & Mona Eltahawy in Conversation". ALBERTINE. 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  36. ^ Malik, Shiv (2011-11-24). "Journalists reveal harrowing sexual assaults in Egypt". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  37. ^ "Mona Eltahawy - Power 500 2012". Arabian Business. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  38. ^ 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
  39. ^ The Africa Report Archived 2019-11-17 at the Wayback Machine"The 100 most influential Africans (51-60)". 2019-03-21. Archived from the original on 2019-11-17. 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]