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BY ALEXIS JUCHT
The Trials of Spring Film Screening and Discussion with Activist Hend Nafea

New England Law | Boston was honored to have activist Hend Nafea come to campus for a special screening of The Trials of Spring, a Fork Films documentary about violence perpetrated against women in Egypt in the fallout of Hosni Mubarak's ousting. 

On Thursday, September 12, 2019, New England Law | Boston hosted a screening of the documentary The Trials of Spring and a Q&A discussion with Hend Nafea, the central focus of the film. Nafea, a campaigner for social justice and conflict resolution in Egypt, offered a first-hand account of her experiences to an audience of law students, legal professionals, and local members of the Egyptian community.  

The film covers the revolutionary protests of the Egyptian Crisis and the injustices demonstrated by the military and political leadership, beginning with the Revolution of 2011. The documentary follows a group of women as they deal with the repercussions of their involvement with the protests to this day, both legally and emotionally.

Nafea was a student activist at the time of the protests. As a woman from a conservative village and a pro-regime, military family, she experienced the denial of basic freedoms and gender-based violence from a young age.        

“My anger against this started to build up,”  Nafea recalls. She was heavily involved with activism in college through social justice groups and student government, and said when the revolution began she “felt this was really my moment to raise my voice against all injustices surrounding my life.”

What started as pro-democracy and anti-police brutality demonstrations in Cairo quickly spiraled into displays of military violence that went beyond simply controlling the protesters.

Over the course of a four-day protest in Tahir Square, ninety-one women reported facing sexual assualt or rape. One such instance was the “virginity tests” in which women were physically violated and humiliates by multiple men under the guise of “religious sanctity.”

Sexual assault was already a tremendous problem in Egpyt, with a 2008 study from the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights estimating at least twenty-seven rapes took place per day and 10,000 per year. A 2013 study conducted by the United Nations also reported that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have faced some sort of sexual harassment.

After years of social backlash and legal battles concerning her involvement with the Egyptian protests, Nafea was sentenced to life in prison. She was abel to excape the country, fleeing to the United States and seeking asylum. She is currently pursuing a degree in conflict resolution and campaigning for freedom for those she left behind in Egypt.

“I’m contributing to a cause I believe in,” Nafea says. “This is our responsibility as Egyptians to spread the word.”

Lisa Laplante, a New England Law professor and director of the school’s Center for International Law and Policy, organized the screening and discussion. She says there is value in bringing these voices to law students who have an interest in social justice, human rights, and international policy.

“We can’t really stay in a silo, especially now with the internet and globalization,” says Laplante. She says the film will help students “get a more realistic portrayal of what it looks like to struggle for rights and at the end of the day, appreciate the rights we have and our ability to protest peacefully for the most part.”

Margaret Litvin, a Boston University Arabic professor, believes that it is important for “for audiences all over the place to have access to a variety of [Arab] women’s voices” through a variety of different channels. She explains that the language barrier and cultural differences often cause messages from Egyptian women to be misconstrued by Westerners.

Sumer Elganbaihy, an Egpytian law student who attended the screening, felt that the topic is extremely relevant for anyone interested in fighting for international law and human rights. “It was undermined how much work women did on the ground in Egypt, and that there is still so much work to be done,” says Elganbaihy. She felt that the documentary was an effective tool to motivate and bring awareness to students in the United States about women’s rights in Egypt.

Nafea spoke in her panel about the importance of the media portrayal of women. Instead of constantly being depicted as victims, she hopes that they will one day be shown as survivors and fighters.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Nafea says that she felt empowered to tell her story and connected to the “community of advocates driven by survivors” of sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Awareness is the primary goal of the documentary, especially due to the fact that Egypt currently faces heavy media censorship. The Trials of Spring serves as a graphic exhibit of the oppression and violence towards women in a repressive country, but the film is not allowed to be shown in Egypt due to the government restrictions.

Nafea prompted the students in attendance to get involved by reaching out to representatives in Congress about the United States’ stance on Egyptian politics. She hopes that more international human rights organizations will also aid the crisis in Egypt.

“Research, gather information, and try to contribute to bigger academic works about specific issues,” Nafea says. “Change doesn’t happen overnight.”

Alexis Jucht is an undergraduate student at Boston University. Originally from Seattle, Washington, she is currently studying Film and Television in BU’s College of Communication. Learn more about the Center for International Law and Policy at New England Law | Boston.

Upcoming Events

The Center for International Law and Policy hosts several events each year, including film screenings, speaker panels, and symposia (see examples below). Many are open to the public as well.

For more information about CILP events, including submitting talk proposals, please contact center director Lisa Laplante.

Past Events

Guest Speakers and Panels

These events bring practitioners and academics working on important legal issues in international law to share their expertise with the New England Law | Boston community.

2019

Regulate-Big-Tech-webVivek Krishnamurthy, The Quest to Regulate Big Tech: Privacy, Free Expression, and Competition: Vivek Krishnamurthy, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa, and Director, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, shared his insights regarding breaking up big tech companies to hold them liable for the content on their platforms and restrict their use of private data, particularly given the impact these companies have on the human rights of privacy and free expression.

 

supply-chains-modern-day-human-trafficking-posterSupply Chains and Modern Day Human Trafficking: This event featured Christina Bain, Director of the Initiative on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, who brings a wealth of experience studying human trafficking through the lens of business and how businesses use forced and trafficked labor. It is sure to be an enlightening and poignant discussion of the injustices behind some of the most common aspects of our consumer experience.

 

Transgender-Human-Rights-posterTaking a Closer Look at Transgender Human Rights: Panel featuring the following experts discussing the challenges the transgender community faces on a domestic and international scale: Kaden Mohamed, a member of the Steering Committee for the Massachusetts Transgender Coalition; William Berman, a clinical professor of law at Suffolk University; and Bruno Rodriguez Reveggino, a Peruvian international lawyer and former advisor to the president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Sponsored by the school's Center for International Law and Policy, the International Law Society, and OUTLaws, as well as the Boston Coalition for the Inter-American Human Rights System.

2018

Matt-Gold-posterTrump’s Trade Wars: Are They Winnable? The United States’ trade agreements make up a whopping 90 percent of all public international law. What do these global trade agreements accomplish—and what’s going to happen now that the Trump administration is implementing radical new tariffs and other policy change? Professor of international trade law, former White House trade official, and New England Law alumnus Matt Gold  addressed these issues and more in this talk, co-sponsored by New England Law’s Center for International Law and Policy, Center for Business Law, and Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

 

Lorianne-Updike-Toler-poster

Lorianne Updike Toler, Constitution-Writing at Home and Abroad: Constitutional legal historian and President of Libertas Constitutional Consulting, Toler shared her years of research studying the process of constitution writing.

 

 

 

Colombia-Expert-Meeting-posterWhat’s Business Got to Do with It? Peacebuilding in Colombia: Luis Fernando Angulo, executive director of El Centro Regional de Empresas y Emprendimientos Responsables (CILP’s partner organization in Colombia), and German Zamara, senior research director with CREER, provided an insider’s view of Colombia’s recent peace agreement and how the government has been seeking to involve the private sector in the peace process it spearheaded.

 

2017

Viviana-PosterViviana Krsticevic, Assessing the Impact of Human Rights Litigation in the Americas: Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law, Krsticevic has been a human rights litigator in the Inter-American Human Rights System for over two decades, and CEJIL is one of the leading non-governmental groups to bring cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. She shared some of her first-hand accounts of litigating in a regional human rights system while also offering her assessment of the direct impact of this work.

Combating Corruption in a New Global Reality: This panel discussed recent developments in the field of international corruption law. It featured Anthony Mirenda, Partner, Foley Hoag; Michael Granne, Associate, Zuber Lawler & Del Duca; and John Sherman, General Counsel, Shift. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

2016

Zhiyuan Guo: CILP collaborated with Center for Law and Social Responsibility to host this prominent Fulbright scholar and professor at China University of Political Science and Law. This daylong visit included activities for faculty and students and aimed to build our institutional relationship with a major Chinese law school.

Human Rights Day: A Poignant Discussion on Female Genital Mutilation: This panel featured alumna Katie Cintolo and New England Law Professor Dina Haynes, who had recently testified on Beacon Hill about a new bill on FGM.

2015

Hon. Ganna Yudkivska, The Impact of the European Human Rights System on Democratization in Eastern Europe: Judge Yudkivska, who sits on the European Court of Human Rights, shared some of the recent developments of the rulings of the international human rights court in Europe. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

Human Rights and Corporate Liability: What You Need to Know: This panel shared useful knowledge regarding the evolving international legal and policy framework that may impact how legal practitioners work with corporations of all sizes. Panelists included John Sherman, general counsel and senior advisor, Shift; Tyler Giannini, clinical professor of law and co-director, Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program and the International Human Rights Clinic; and Amanda Werner, legal and policy fellow, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

Justice Defenders: Who Defends Those Who Defend Human Rights? This panel highlighted the work of lawyers working to protect and defend human rights advocates. Panelists included Priscila Rodriguez Bribiesca, founder and legal director, Mexican-U.S. NGO Strategic Defense and Communication for Change (SAKBE), and Fergal Gaynor, counsel for victims in an ICC case, Prosecutor v. Uhuru Kenyatta.

Dustin Lewis, Anti-Corruption and Counterterrorism Measures: An Overview for NGOs and Corporations Operating in Insecure Environments: Lewis, a senior researcher at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, explored the issues and concerns that arise for NGOs and corporations operating in armed conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies such as what due diligence and risk mitigation would entail for organizations working in relation to Syria or Somalia. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

2014

Terrorism and the Material Support Statute: A Panel Discussion on the First Circuit’s Decision in United States v. Mehanna and Related Issues: The panel explored the various issues and debates stemming from the First Circuit’s decision in November 2013 in which the Court affirmed the conviction of Tarek Mehanna, a 30-year old pharmacist from Sudbury, Massachusetts, for material support for terrorism. Panelists included Professor Andrew March, Yale Law School; Professor Peter Margulies, Roger Williams School of Law; and Sabin Willett, Bingham McCutchen LLP. Boston Bar Association co-sponsored.

International Disability Law: Opening Doors for Access and Inclusion: This event featured both out of state and local speakers discussing the effectiveness of international conventions regulating disability law, and identify the next steps in addressing the needs of the international disabled population. Speakers included Daniela Caruso, Professor of Law, Boston University; Eric Mathews, Advocacy Associate, Disability Rights International; and Diana Samarasan, Founding Executive Director, Disability Rights Advocacy Fund & Disability Rights Fund.

2013

Julia Rogers, One Seed at a Time: The United Nations, Food Security, and Development: As a legal consultant with the United Nations and other international organizations, Ms. Rogers advises developing countries on legislative reforms to strengthen their agriculture sector and promote food security. Her work has taken her to Afghanistan, Ethiopia, East Timor, Angola, and Tanzania to hold in-depth dialogues with key stakeholders–from government officials to farmers associations. She provided her personal reflections on the challenges of engaging in legal work to support countries on the path to development.

Human Rights Film Screenings

Documentaries help to highlight and bring to life pressing international issues which otherwise often seem remote and abstract. Each fall semester, the law school and CILP organize a film screening to foster dialogue and raise awareness of pressing human rights concerns. These events often include a panel or guest lecture.

2019 

Trials-of-Spring-posterThe Trials of Spring: Center for International Law and Policy hosted a private screening of Fork Films’ The Trials of Spring, featuring special guests Hend Nafea and Marie O’Reilly. Hend is the subject of the film, which follows the immediate aftermath of the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, specifically her story as an activist and protester who was sexually assaulted by the Egyptian military for speaking out against sexual and physical violence towards women. Hend challenged being sexually assaulted during her fight for democracy, helping expose how systematic sexual violence became a tactic of repressing legitimate protest. O’Reilly is a writer, researcher, and film producer exploring the nexus of gender, peace, and security. Both Hend and O’Reilly spoke to attendees following the screening.

2017 

The-Uncondemned-posterThe Uncondemned: Making its first public screening in Boston, this documentary tells the story about the litigation strategy devised by a young group of lawyers working for the International Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute the crime of rape as a part of an overall charge of genocide—the Akayesu case was the first of its kind. Filmmaker Michele Mitchell then gave remarks and answered questions after the film. Community partners included Komera, Peace is Loud, and the MaranyundoInitiative.

 

the-man-who-mends-women-posterThe Man Who Mends Women: This International Women’s Day film screening featured a documentary about Dr. Denis Mukwege, renowned doctor and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who dedicated his life to repairing the bodies of women who were raped during the 20 years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This event was organized in collaboration with United Nations Association of Greater Boston's Global Women's Circle and Harvard School of Public Health.

2016

price-we-pay-posterThe Price We Pay: This award-winning Canadian documentary revealed how large corporations use tax havens to escape paying taxes. We also featured guest speaker Gillian Caldwell, CEO of Global Witness, one of the organizations that helped to uncover the Panama Papers, which helped to reveal the vast corruption with secret tax havens. The film was screened during an event titled Shady Business: The Offshore Industry of Tax Havens, Shell Companies, and Crime.

2015

First Light: This film provided an overview of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the first such body for Native Americans in the United States. The TRC uncovered the discrimination experienced by the Wabanaki children and families involved with the Maine child welfare system. The film’s director, Adam Mazo, and activists featured in the work joined us for a panel discussion after the screening.

2014 

Co-Exist. This film was screened during an event entitled Healing After Genocide: Stories from Rwanda, which was in recognition of the 20 years that had passed since the genocide in Rwanda. The documentary is about the difficult healing process after the genocide. The law school and CILP were fortunate to be able to organize the event in coordination with the NGO Coexist Learning Project. One of the activists featured in the film, Solange Nyirasafari, traveled from Rwanda to join us.

2013 

granito-posterGranito: How to Nail a Dictator. This film provides a captivating tale of how a small international legal team managed to bring former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt to justice. During his brief leadership in the early 1980s, General Ríos Montt orchestrated a brutal government policy that led to the massacre of many Mayan villages. The film is produced by Pamela Yates whose 1983 film When the Mountains Tremble helped inform the world of this horrific tragedy. This film is her latest documentary and narrates how she was approached to be a witness against the General and how her incriminating footage from her earlier film became critical to the litigation strategy.