February 13 2013

Sexual Violence Used to Silence Egyptian Women Protestors

Emily Wismer

 

According to an Egyptian cleric, women who protest the Egyptian government in Tahrir square are “going there to get raped” and any violence to silence their political voices must not be rebuked. The Russian Times reports:

…a third cleric justified rampant, mob fueled sexual assaults against women protesters in Tahrir Square.

"They are going there to get raped," cleric Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah said, characterizing the woman as “devils” who “speak with no femininity, no morals, no fear…” He further cast aspersion on opposition calls to make sexual assault against women a "red line" that must not be crossed.

"Does that apply to these naked women?" he said. "Nine out of 10 of them are Crusaders (Christians) and the rest are…widows with no one to rein them in."

He further implored them to “Learn from Muslim women, be Muslims."

Defending his father’s statement, Maysara questioned, “There are drugs, sexual harassment and adultery in Tahrir square, then why are those women going?”

It is obvious why the women are going to Tahrir square: To voice their political opposition to a government that does not protect women or condemn sexual violence that is actually promoted by some leaders.

Bloomberg reports the attacks are coordinated to squash political opposition:

Sexual assaults on Egyptian female protesters have been led by organized gangs, the head of a government-backed women’s rights panel said, in what appears to be the first such acknowledgment by officials relating to crimes that have gained increasing prominence.

“There are organized gangs who commit sexual harassment during protests with the aim of scaring women and orienting them away from political participation,” Mervat Tallawy, head of state-run National Council for Women, said today in a press conference in Cairo. “Some of these cases amount to rape,” she said, referring to reported cases of women protesters being assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the focus of anti-government demonstrations.

Since November, sexual attacks in Tahrir are increasing in frequency and intensity. One young woman reports being pinned to a slowly traveling car as men groped and molested her for over an hour, tearing at her clothes with knives. Violence peaked on January 25, the second anniversary of the revolution in which at least 19 women were attacked. According to the Financial Times, six of those women received knife wounds, and one woman was stabbed in the vagina.

It’s not that women in Tahrir question whether the government will protect or defend their rights. They know the government will refuse to prosecute sexual violence and political leaders will promote its use to silence political opposition. This has not stopped women from speaking up and defending their rights. 

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