Photos of 'Ultras girls’ taken during a recent protest in Cairo.
Since Mohamed Morsi was ousted from power in July, female members of the Muslim Brotherhood have participated massively in protests calling for his reinstatement. But in an effort to make their voices heard, Egypt's newly formed 'Ultras girls' have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: football fans.
The Ultras from the Cairo-based football club, al-Ahly, were the first football fans in Egypt to enter the political arena. But unlike the 'Ultras girls' whose movement they inspired, the Ultras of al-Ahly protested
for the most part against former president Mohamed Morsi and his movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Indeed, it may come as a surprise to see veiled women beating drums, playing trumpets, and singing at the top of their lungs in the streets of Cairo - particularly when these women are the supporters of a conservative religious movement. And yet, the “Ultras girls
” Facebook page, through which members meet and organise new events, already has around 15,000 fans despite being only a couple weeks old.
A Mohamed Morsi supporter blowing on a vuvuzela.
“We are here to help the women make themselves heard”
Aya Alla Hosni is an activist in the ‘Women against the coup’ movement and is a founding member of the ‘Ultras girls’.
The idea of an ‘Ultras’ group came about during protests against the army. Some women began to bring drums, while others composed protest songs, and so on. So we said to ourselves, why not create an Ultra group? We started a Facebook page, and now there are ‘Ultra girls’ in several regions of Egypt, such as Giza and Helwan.
A student protest at al-Azhar University in Cairo.
We created this group mainly for practical reasons: during protests, the women’s group is always behind the men’s group. As a result, the women’s group is not close enough to hear the songs and the slogans and to share them with others further behind. So, we, the ‘Ultras girls’, place ourselves at the front of the women’s group during the protests, so that they can follow our lead and sing our protest songs.
Female supporters of Mohamed Morsi playing drums during a protest in Cairo.
“I believe that a woman can show her enthusiasm while remaining virtuous”
Many men of the Muslim Brotherhood have criticised our initiative, particularly on social networks. They think it is undignified for a pious woman to act like a football fan. I disagree with this point of view, because I believe a woman can show her enthusiasm while remaining virtuous. Unlike football fans, we do not swear and we do not attack anyone.
Female students at al-Azhar University, which has been racked by protests since the start of the school year, created a similar group to support the Muslim Brotherhood. Unlike the 'Ultras girls', these activists cover their faces to avoid being recognised by university officials who could expel them.
All photos were posted on the Facebook page for the 'Ultras girls'.