Egyptian women demonstrate in Cairo MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images
When Egyptian politics get hot, it’s women who most often feel the flames. So when a group of Egyptian women took to Tahrir Square this past Friday to denounce the frequent assaults on women activists, it wasn’t surprising that they themselves came under attack.
According to Amnesty International, the women were calling for an end to sexual harassment of woman protesters when a mob of men came upon them and groped and punched the activists.
These women stood up to demand an end to sexual harassment. What they got was intimidation and sexual assault.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
At a critical time for Egypt’s future, the attacks underscore how women’s rights to full political participation are central to the spirit of the 2011 uprisings and the hope that Egypt can develop a new political culture based on respect for all human rights. The attack on the women activists goes straight to the heart of the ruling regime’s efforts to maintain its old practices.
This was the second report this month of women protesters being assaulted in Egypt. Nihal Saad Zaghloul told Amnesty International that she and three friends were attacked by a large group of men on June 2 in Tahrir Square as they joined a protest after the verdict in Hosni Mubarak’s trial. She was pushed and groped and her headscarf pulled off before some men in the square came to her aid. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Women protestors in Cairo. Photo by Sarah Carr
By now, almost everyone has heard the about the 18 women protestors in Egypt’s Tahrir Square who this past spring were detained, beaten, given electric shocks, strip searched and forced to submit to “virginity tests.”
But courageous action by two Egyptian women has led to a landmark ruling on these “tests” by an Egyptian court.
In July 2011 Samira Ibrahim and Maha Mohamed stood up for their rights and filed a case before the Egyptian administrative court to end “virginity tests” against female detainees. Ibrahim was subjected to this abuse when she was arrested by the military for her participation in the March 9, 2011, protests that rocked the country. Mohamed joined the case on the basis that as a protester, she feared she might be subjected to the same abuse if arrested by the military.
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After an international campaign and a meeting with Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty, one of Egypt’s top military rulers announced Monday that the army will no longer carry out forced ‘virginity tests’ against detained women.
Although this is a positive development, Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s comments must translate into unequivocal instructions to army staff that women are never forced to undergo this treatment again in Egypt.
When army officers violently cleared Tahrir Square on March 9, 17 women were detained, beaten, prodded with electric shock batons, subjected to strip searches, forced to submit to ‘virginity tests’ and threatened with prostitution charges.
The women were brought before a military court two days later and released on March 13. Several received one-year suspended sentences for charges including disorderly conduct, destroying property, obstructing traffic and possession of weapons.
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