A teacher belly-dancing has sparked a national debate in her home country of Egypt around women’s rights after she was sacked from her position.
Aya Yousef was not only sacked from her position as a teacher but also divorced by her husband after she was filmed without her knowledge by a colleague at a work social event on a Nile boat.
According to the BBC, the footage shows her dancing to the music being played alongside male teaching staff, but despite belly-dancing dating as far back as the Pharaonic times, the socially conservative Egypt typically frowns upon it – and indeed women dancing at all in public.
Looking at the video with Western eyes, it might all seem pretty tame. However, the popularity of the video wasn’t matched by the comments underneath – with many critical of Yousef.
‘It clearly expresses the poor times we live in!! Anything is permitted,’ wrote one Twitter user. ‘Education has reached a low level in Egypt,’ another commented.
Following the backlash, Yousef was ultimately sacked by the primary school in Dakahlia Governorate in the Nile Delta, where she’d worked teaching Arabic for several years.
She’s also vowed to never dance again and admitted that she contemplated suicide as a result of the negative attention she’d received, saying to journalists: ‘Ten minutes on the boat in the Nile cost me my life’.
Thankfully for Yousef, she has her supporters in Egypt too, with many saying she did nothing wrong.
In support of her, the deputy head of another school also posted photographs on social media of herself dancing at her daughter’s wedding.
Meanwhile, the head of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, Dr Nihad Abu Qumsan, offered Yousef a job in her office. She also asked her to bring her contract from the education ministry so that she could file a legal complaint against her dismissal.
This counter-pressure may well have caused a bit of a rethink, and local authorities have now appointed Yousef to a position at a new school.
It’s worth remembering, too, that none of this was as a result of Yousef’s consent, and she says she has plans to sue the person who filmed the video.
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