A group of Egyptian men have established an organization to fight for men's rights and protect them from the "tyranny" of women as the country's women take advantage of a law allowing them to divorce their husbands with no questions asked.
Men who have been unjustly left by their wives want to protect themselves and others like them from women who suddenly decide to get rid of them, Abdul-Rahman Hamed, the founder of the organization, the first of its kind, and one of its most active members, told Al Arabiya.
"The law of unconditional divorce has become a sword hanging over men's heads,” he said, adding "men are the ones who now need organizations to fight for their rights," to protect themselves from the "tyranny" of women.
Hamed is talking about khol'a, or the law of unconditional divorce, which was passed in 2000 and grants women the right to get a divorce if she gives up her financial rights.
Prior to khol'a, it was extremely difficult for a woman to be granted a divorce and she had to present strong evidence supporting her wish for separation such as physical abuse or adultery.
Men losing ground
The organization, named the Egyptian Organization for Divorced Men, rejects the law because it equalizes men and women and gives the woman the right to get a divorce herself, a right that was previously exclusive to men.
"Men are losing ground. In the past, a man had the upper hand. Now, the woman is acting as his peer. If he threatens her with divorce, she does the same. She might even divorce him without his knowledge."
The organization was established so that men can voice their rejection of the unconditional divorce law and prove its violation of the Sharia, or Islamic law.
The organization boasts more than 1,000 members many of whom, Hamed claims, are celebrities.
"Many of our members are public figures but I cannot disclose their names. There are also men from several professions—doctors, engineers, businessmen, rights activists and others."
Hamed noted that not all members have been necessarily divorced by their wives since many of them joined in support of the cause and in solidarity with the "victims" of unconditional divorce.
"The most striking thing is that we, in fact, have female members who voluntarily joined as they believe in the organization’s role in protecting the unity of the Egyptian family."
Every 12 minutes
Hamed argued that according to official statistics a man is divorced every 12 minutes and the total amount of divorced men in Egypt has so far reached 12,000.
"This shows that unconditional divorce is no longer done discreetly and is not the exception anymore. Women even brag about divorcing their husbands with their friends. This law is making women tyrannical."
Hamed admitted his wife divorced him but stressed he was not ashamed.
"I am, in fact, honored to be divorced by such a woman who was that careless towards her marriage and her two daughters. I tried my best to straighten her up but to no avail."
The organization has already started proceedings with legal measures to annul the unconditional divorce law.
Official complaints were filed with Dar al-Iftaa, the body in charge of issuing religious edicts, al-Azhar, the leading Sunni institution in the Muslim world and the Ministry of Religious Endowments to prove that the law does not comply with teachings of Islam.
Other complaints were submitted to the Prosecutor General, the People's Assembly, Egypt's lower house of parliament and the Ministry of Justice to call for annulling the law.
"In addition to annulling the law, our initiative also aims to achieve psychological and social rehabilitation for divorced men who, being part of an eastern society, suffer a lot because of this law."
In the conservative, male-oriented, Egyptian society divorced men are considered weak as they are ridiculed for not living up to the stereotypical concept of manhood being about control of women.
"Divorced men also face a lot of difficulties upon trying to start a new life. Most of them are rejected when they propose to women as if they are infected with some contagious disease."
Hamed refused to admit that the unconditional divorce law has done justice to women who suffered in their marriages or that women resort to khol'a only when they run out of ways to maintain the unity of their families.
"Women use this law to satisfy their personal whims and for the most trivial of reasons. Several cases are disgraceful."
Hamed cited two unconditional divorce cases that he considers "disgraceful," one of 90 year old woman who divorced her husband after a 65-year old marriage and another of a 75 year old woman. Both divorced men are members of the organizations.
"Unconditional divorce is not only used by young women. Elderly women are also divorcing their husbands, throwing away decades of companionship and family life."
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)