Since the revolution erupted in Egypt in 2011, two main forces have been controlling the scene: the military junta and the Islamists. Tomorrow sees 7 Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) charged under the so-called 'Protest Law' appear in court.  Fatma Emam, Egyptian feminist and member of WLUML’s Advisory Council, describes the situation from the ground.

“Your wishes, Mahienour?” were Judge Sherif Hafez’s first words to leftist activist Mahienour al-Massry in the deliberation room before he ruled to suspend her six-month prison sentence.

Firm and confident, Massry replied, “The release of the thousands of detainees from prison.”

On 13 September 2014, the Police Institute near Tora postponed the trial of the seven women human rights defenders until 11 October 2014. The decision to postpone was taken after the court heard the prosecution’s evidence. The defense attorneys requested the postponement in order to allow a technical expert to examine and determine the veracity of the video footage evidence presented during the session.

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.

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