Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it is Qahera, a new web-based comic heroine who fights social problems affecting women in Egypt.
Qahera, the Arabic word for ‘Cairo’, is on a mission to combat “misogyny and Islamophobia, among other things,” said 19-year-old comic designer Deena Mohamed, whose work is presented in Arabic and English.
The name Cairo “has so many strong meanings, like ‘vanquisher’ and ‘conqueror.’ It seemed appropriate for a superhero,” Mohamed told Al Arabiya News.
“It seemed only natural for her to combat sexual harassment in Egypt, because she mostly deals with issues that frustrate me, and this was a significant one that needed to be addressed,” Mohamed added.
She made Qahera veiled “because she combats Islamophobia that veiled women face to a large extent due to being very recognizably Muslim, and because there’s already such little representation of women in hijabs that isn’t dehumanizing.”
The heroine also fights societal stereotypes regarding gender roles. In her latest production, Qahera mocks a song that promotes the superiority of men over women.
“I do everything, from the initial concept - planning it out and writing it - to the artwork, to posting it,” said Mohamed, a graphic design student. “More talented artists are emerging, especially on the internet.”
She added: “Qahera is great as a fictional medium to raise awareness for issues I care about, and it’s obvious why she’d care about them, but that’s the extent of it.
“I’d love for a superhero like her to exist when I’m out on the streets, but objectively, women in Egypt don’t need a superhero."
They need laws, regulations, cultural awareness, and a change in societal behavior to prevent harassment.
“A very important theme of my comics is that Egyptian women are already superheroes, so to speak, because they’re actively achieving things despite the challenges they face. Qahera is modeled after them.”
By Shounaz Meky
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