Egypt

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition has grave concerns for the wellbeing of Ms Sanaa Seif, a prominent Egyptian Woman Human Rights Defender, who began a hunger strike on 28 August 2014 to protest the Protest and Public Assembly Law. Ms Seif is currently being held in Qanater prison.

Ms Seif was one of seven women defenders who were arrested on 21 June 2014 while participating in a peaceful demonstration calling for the repeal of the law, which essentially grants security officials and authority figures the discretion to ban any protest without justifying the grounds for banning them. It also allows police officers to forcibly disperse any protest, and sets heavy prison sentences for peaceful protest and expression.  

Yara Sallam, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo), Fikreya Mohamed (known as Rania El-Sheikh) also remain in custody awaiting trial, which has been set for 13 September 2014.

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC) condemns the arrest of seven women human rights defenders in Cairo on 21st June 2014.

Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif, Hanan Mustafa Mohamed, Salwa Mihriz, Samar Ibrahim, Nahid Sherif (known as Nahid Bebo), Fikreya Mohamed, and 15 other activists were arrested by the Egyptian authorities while participating in a peaceful demonstration calling for the repeal of Egypt’s army-backed  Protest and Public Assembly Law. Law 107 of 2013 essentially grants security officials and authority figures the discretion to ban any protest without justifying the grounds for banning them. It also allows police officers to forcibly disperse any protest, and sets heavy prison sentences for peaceful protest and expression.

On June 3, the day that the Elections Commission announced the victory of ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt’s presidential race, television announcer Radwa Ruhayyim covered the festivities in Tahrir Square. Surrounded by ululating revelers, she noted that, amidst the celebrations, several women had been assaulted. [1] Live coverage of the June 8 inauguration festivities also included references to assaults that day. Tragically, the story of mass sexual assaults at large political gatherings is nothing new. Between November 2012 and August 2013, over 200 women were assaulted at political events including celebrations of the second anniversary of the January 25 uprising against Husni Mubarak and protests against President Muhammad Mursi in 2012 and 2013. The women were surrounded by large groups of men who tore their clothes, groped their bodies and penetrated them with their fingers or, in some cases, with bladed instruments. Some women were so badly injured that their hymens were torn and their reproductive organs permanently damaged.

أعربت المبادرة المصرية للحقوق الشخصية اليوم عن صدمتها إزاء قرار محكمة جنح مصر الجديدة باستمرار حبس يارا سلام، مسؤول ملف العدالة الانتقالية بالمبادرة المصرية و22 آخرين في القضية المرتبطة بمظاهرة سلمية خرجت يوم السبت الماضي 21 يونيو في حي مصر الجديدة وتعرضت للتفريق على يد قوات شرطة ساعدها أشخاص يرتدون ملابس مدنية.

Executive summary
 
To read the paper in full, please download the pdf
 
This paper is about the struggle to combat gender-based violence in public space in Egypt through the sustained collective action of vigilante groups who organically formed to respond to the increasing encroachment on women in public space from 2011 onwards. The study examines the emergence of a distinct form of collective action (informal youth-led activism aimed at addressing sexual violence in public space) at a very distinct historical juncture in the country’s history: the phase after the ousting of President Mubarak in February 2011 through what became known as the 25th of January Revolution and up to the ousting of President Morsi in what became controversially known as the 30th of June Revolution of 2013.

Summary
 
To read the full paper, please download the pdf. 
 
This paper examines the nature of the political struggle over the status, role and identity of women in Egypt in between the two revolutions (January 2011 and June 2013). It presents a situational analysis of the various actors, relations and agendas that have both informed the backlash against women’s rights and the mass movements of resistance. It acknowledges that while women’s rights have historically suffered as a consequence of a hostile political will of the ruling authority and parts of political and civil society that are inimical to expanding women’s rights (and sometimes mobilise around revoking what already exists), women’s rights faced new threats after January 2011 because of the political settlement between the Supreme Council for Armed Forces and the Muslim Brotherhood. The threats to women’s rights worsened under President Morsi’s regime and while they were not the prime reason why women mobilised in the largest numbers ever to oust the president in June 2013, encroachments on their freedoms was a catalysing factor.

After Egypt increased the legal age for marriage to 18 years in 2008, policy makers expected to see a decline in the number of early marriages. But, according to new research presented at a seminar at The American University of Cairo this week, the country must overcome significant economic, social, and cultural barriers before child marriage becomes a thing of the past.

In an unprecedented statement, over forty senior academics including more than a dozen former presidents of the most important professional association for scholars of the Arab and larger Muslim world, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), have signed a letter to US President Obama and Secretary State John Kerry calling for the Administration to demand the immediate release of blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah and other political detainees in Egypt, for Egyptian officials to suspend the protest law of 2013 and end the repression of free speech rights guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution and international law, and end the regime of violence, including torture and extra judicial execution, that still governs Egypt after the electoral victory of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as President. Even as Iraq is engulfed by violence and Syria continues its brutal civil war, these scholars and officials, with literally centuries of experience in Egypt and the broader region between them, warn that growing political violence in Egypt epitomized by the recent reimprisonment of Alaa Abdel Fattah and ongoing rights abuses, risks permanently destabilizing Egypt, and with it, the region more broadly. They call upon the Obama administration to suspend non-humanitarian military, security, political, and economic cooperation with Egypt until the government heeds these demands.

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Via Egypt Solidarity 

Join the international campaign against Egypt’s repressive protest law and to free the thousands of detainees seized by the military regime.

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