An administrative court ruled Tuesday that the Egyptian military had wrongly violated the human rights of female demonstrators by subjecting them to “virginity tests” intended to humiliate them.
The decision was the first to address a scandal arising from one of the military’s first crackdowns on protesters, on March 9, less than a month after it seized power with the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. And the ruling was also the first time since the military takeover that a civilian court has attempted to exert judicial authority over the ruling generals, who have suspended the Constitution and set themselves up as the only source of law.
Local human rights watchdogs on Sunday accused the Egyptian military of systematically targeting female political activists, and demanded that Egypt’s military rulers admit to violations committed against demonstrators.
In a joint statement, five human rights organizations accused military rulers of exercising "unprecedented violence against protesters, with the targeting of female activists being a distinctive feature of the proceedings to disperse sit-ins, as depicted in pictures and video clips showing protesters being arrested, beaten, dragged and stripped of their clothes.”
While the Arab Spring has provided women with space to make their voices heard, “It has also become clear that there are real risks, especially [for woman] in places like Egypt and Libya,” said Head of Human Rights Watch’s Women Division Liesl Gerntholtz.
“[Arab] women were visible, they went out and demonstrated for changes, but unfortunately right after the ousters of [Tunisian President Zeineddine] Ben Ali and [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak, we saw a backlash,” added her colleague, Nadya Khalife, the Middle East North Africa researcher in HRW’s women's rights division.
Elle parle à voix basse, chuchotant presque, d’un timbre fluet. Mais, derrière cette timidité, se loge une volonté farouche. Celle d’une jeune fille qui pose nue pour affirmer sa liberté, les yeux plantés dans l’objectif, et publie ensuite sa photo sur Internet, provoquant un gigantesque scandale chez les Egyptiens. « Je ne regrette rien, affirme Aliaa el-Mahdy. Ce ne sont pas les menaces de mort qui me feront changer d’avis, au contraire… » Du haut de ses 20 ans, la jeune étudiante veut changer le monde, propager la révolution et faire sauter les tabous, à commencer par ceux du machisme et du conservatisme écrasants qui pèsent sur l’Egypte. Cette image en noir et blanc montre Aliaa debout, en bas et en ballerines rehaussées de rouge, une fleur dans les cheveux. La jeune femme dénudée regarde le spectateur droit dans les yeux, comme l’« Olympia » de Manet qui scandalisa la France il y a plus d’un siècle.
I am writing to you to tell you about the situation in Egypt at the moment, as I am not sure about the accuracy of the media. Last Friday there was a huge demonstration in Tahrir Square calling for ending the military rule, to end military trials for civilians (more than 12,000 civilians have been referred to military tribunals) and to object to the supra constitutional principles. There was a huge numbers from different communities that attended the demonstration and most of them left the Square by evening.
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, Tahrir Square has been an inspiration to pro-democracy activists across the globe. Now one woman is fighting to make sure the public space, which became the focal point of the demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak's government in Egypt, does not become a symbol for state-sponsored misogyny too.
At the age of six, in the summer of 1937, Nawal El Saadawi was pinned down by four women in her home in Egypt. A midwife, holding a sharpened razor blade, pulled out her clitoris and cut it off. "Since I was a child that deep wound left in my body has never healed," she wrote in her first autobiography, A Daughter of Isis.
"I lay in a pool of blood. After a few days, the bleeding stopped, and the daya [midwife] peered between my thighs and said, 'All is well. The wound has healed, thanks be to God.' But the pain was there, like an abscess in my flesh."