Egypt Independent

National Council for Women former secretary general defends policies

There are deliberate attempts to disparage the National Council for Women, Farkhonda Hassan, former secretary general of the council said in an interview with London-based Asharq al-Awsat published Monday.
Hassan said she rejects accusations that the council has devastated Egyptian families by the laws it has helped pass, saying its critics aim to tarnish the image of Suzanne Mubarak, former first lady and the head of the council.
"I want a single proof of this," she said. "To those who say we have devastated Egyptian families, I say the role of the council was to propose laws. The government was responsible for implementation, and we solicited the opinion of Al-Azhar on any matter related to Islamic Sharia."
Founded in 2000 under a law issued by former President Hosni Mubarak, the council was meant to elevate position of women in the country. But it has been heavily criticized by both secular and religious figures. It replaced a similar council that existed under President Anwar Sadat and was overseen by his wife, Jehan Sadat.
Hassan said the previous council lost its direction and mission after Sadat's death. Members of the its committee then asked Suzanne Mubarak, at the time the new first lady, to head the council, hoping she could help forge a stronger role for it, Hassan said.
Secular feminists criticize the former first lady's involvement with the council, saying it falsely portrayed her as an advocate of women's rights. Meanwhile, some Islamists say the council intends to corrupt the traditional values of Muslim women.
Hassan said she now regrets working for 10 years at council, because it means she has become a target of what she says is a deliberate attempt to smear everything connected to the old regime.
Asked about her relationship with the former first lady, Hassan said Suzanne Mubarak was her student at the American University of Cairo, where the former first lady was studying for a post-graduate degree.
She said she still likes her former student. 
"I love her, I cannot lie. I will not be a hypocrite to satisfy someone or ride the trend."
She said Egyptians are refusing to listen to the truth.
"When we write the truth, the media refuses to publish it," she said. "I am puzzled. Why the intentional smear campaign?"
Hassan denied accusations that Suzanne Mubarak stole from donations to the council, saying that as a government entity, it did not receive any donations. She said the Central Auditing Organization monitored the council, and the Finance Ministry oversaw its budget.
"Suzanne Mubarak knew nothing about receipts. She only received work reports," she said.
Hassan acknowledged that elections held from 2000 onwards in Egypt were not clean or fair.
"Before the breakout of the revolution, my opinion was that the situation needed to corrected," she said.  "The elections were rubbish. The rigging was grossly flagrant, as though we were lying to ourselves."