- Posted April 16, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Protests in Egypt: Your experiences
The Objectification of Women in Egypt:
The scene is Tahrir Square, the date 25th of January 2011- the first day of the Egyptian Revolution.
Egyptians stood side by side, hand in hand, forgetting all their differences- women and men, old and young, rich and poor, Christian and Muslim.
They had one goal, one purpose… to force President Hosni Mubarak to step down. During the eighteen days of sit-in, there was little or no harassment of women, but this was not to be for long.
Assaults started to target female journalists and any woman with a foreign look, as what happened to Hala Gorani from CNN on February 11th 2011.
This was done by pro-Mubarak supporters- who had the backing of the state-run media- and had the notion that the revolution was ignited by foreign powers. Hence the anger was targeted at any foreign journalist.
The Mubarak regime prohibited the formation of political parties which used religion for political aims. After the regime was overthrown and the military took its place, the gates opened for the close-minded retroactive Salafis and like-minded Islamists to start and spread their venom into the minds of the illiterate in order to control them and use them as their mob under the umbrella of ‘defending Islam’.
The flood of religious TV channels with extremist sheikhs and advocates started to rise, and with a single tone: ‘Women going to the protests are prostitutes looking for sex, and some of them have been captured exchanging sexual acts in the tents in Tahrir square’.
From then on, sexual assaults on women have been on the rise, due to the justification of the rape of female protestors, who are being called ‘devils’, and are said to be ‘asking for it’.
One of the famous incidents was the sexual harassment of Sonia Dridi, the France 24 journalist on 22nd October 2012. As a female reporter she was immediately identified as a target in the minds of those thugs or organized harassers.
One incident known as ‘Magles el Wozara’ (the governing Cabinet) took place on the 25th of December 2011. The army had dragged a veiled girl, who wore the so-called Abaya, which is a dress covering her whole body, and is commonly worn by veiled women in the Middle-East.
While being dragged by the army soldiers, her clothes has been lifted off her body and her ‘Blue Bra’ was revealed. As conservatives by nature, the Egyptian society was outraged and angry from the army.
Meanwhile, the SCAF whom were in charge of the country back then, used their allies in the media, especially the so-called “Islamic preachers”, and the situation has been turned 180 degrees.
Now, it was the girl to be blamed, and a common quote “Why did she go there?” was used.
Another famous one “why was she wearing a blue bra?” and last but not least “why was she wearing her Abaya on her bare skin?” This was my personal favourite, a girl must wear an armor under her clothes then nowadays.
Also, ridiculing the situation to be merely revolving around the color of her BRA..
The wrong wasn’t the scene of a helpless woman dragged by the army who swore to protect Egypt and the Egyptians, but was the underwear color… so apparently BLUE isn’t the Salafis preachers favorite color after all.
Ever since, the Salafi sheikhs and the Islamist media with their so-called preachers under patronage of the government has started targeting women in protest and labeling them as “whores”.
Recently, a well known television Salafi preacher known as “Abu Islam”, who has numerous followers , has declared that it’s okay to ‘rape’ women who go on protests as they want to be raped, and it is “not a Red line” to rape them or sexually assault them.
To quote him: “They have no shame, no fear”; “And by the way, 90 percent of them are crusaders and the remaining 10 percent are widows who have no one to control them. You see women talking like monsters,” he added, as seen on Thursday, 07 February 2013 on AL-ARABIYA NEWS.
After such claims, and in a society with many of its youth suffering from unemployment, poverty and sexual frustration, sexual assaults have been increasing dramatically in Tahrir Square.
Recently, a group called “OP Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault”, whose main aim is to combat sexual harassment incidents that face women in protests and sit-ins in Tahrir Square, has been formed, and their members wear white T-shirts with their logos on.
It works in the form of three groups:
1- “Midan” which distribute leaflets with their hotline numbers and information.
2- “Clash” which are called and obtain the whereabouts of the victim. They intervene with whatever they have, from knives and daggers to simple pepper sprays, against the thugs to help rescue the girl. They often engage in fights and get stabbed and hurt to rescue the girl, after which they form a cordon around her until the third group arrives to intervene. They do not touch or hold the girl because she is very distressed and frantic.
3- “Prrotection and support” these are groups of girls with bags containing extra clothes (since the thugs tear up the girl’s clothes) and necessary supplies and take her to a safe house near Tahrir Square to calm her down. Their role also is to provide medical and psychological help if needed to help with the trauma of the event.
The groups usually consisted of 25 persons. One of the black days was the 25th of January 2013, in which the groups unfortunately consisted of only 7 per group and most importantly the clash group.
And on this day, it was chaotic; they couldn’t handle every call for help. The thugs or the harassers employed new techniques; they tricked the girls into believing that they were good guys trying to rescue them whilst in the meanwhile they sexually assault them, take them to dark alleys and push them against the wall, where more than 5 men are around a girl, surrounding her like wolves feasting on a prey.
Reading the testimonies of the victims and watching the videos, made my stomach turn, I couldn’t stop crying… I was in severe rage. I spoke to a member of the group responsible for clashing and bringing back the girl, to ascertain the precise details from the rescuer’s point of view.
“I felt helpless, emasculated,” said Steve Nabeel Helmy, a young 24 year old engineer, “we had to stoop down to their level of violence, carrying knives and stuff to protect the girls and rescue them.”
“What I saw wasn’t humane, it was animalistic, as if it was a mission for these guys to break these girls and women”; “I didn’t think about the risk to my life for a second, all I cared about was getting these girls to safety”.
Just trying to imagine what these young men and women are getting into just to protest for a better life- that those thugs will eventually enjoy- makes my blood boil.
Imagine the pain and horror that the girl must be in… here she is trying to use her voice to protest for her country, for the right of poor illiterate people, for a better life, for a better education and health system and equality… and yet get raped and sexually assaulted by the same people for whom she is trying to get rights for and for whom she is fighting to give them a voice.
Not only that, but after this horrific day, the Shura Council on 11.02.2013 blamed the victims for the sexual harassment and said that they should not stand next to men in these protests and large gatherings, they should not protest amongst men and should find a separate place.
MP’s attacked the shift tents located in the sit-ins as per the claims of the Salafi preachers, that they are “mobile houses for prostitution”.
To quote Police General Major Adel Afifi, “Women know beforehand that they are going amongst thugs”; “the girl must protect herself before asking the Ministry of Interior and the police to protect her because simply the police officer can’t even protect himself”.
He goes on to say, “in some cases, the girl helps and is responsible for her ‘rape’ one hundred per cent with no one else to blame, because she placed herself in such a situation”.
Also in the same hearing, the Deputy Salah Abd El Salam said, “Although this epidemic must come to an end, it is mostly the girl to be blamed for protesting and demonstrating in areas full of thugs”… in reference to Tahrir Square.
How do you expect the women and girls to live freely and enjoy freedom and their rights whilst those elected to be their voices in government have abandoned them and blamed them for everything?
How do you expect a girl and a woman to live with dignity and honor in a society where the so-called religious preachers say it is okay to rape those who protest against the government?
Women in Egypt need our voices, need our help… if we turn our backs to them, this epidemic will conquer the whole Middle East.
Stop sexual harassment in Egypt…..
FOR MORE INFO ON TESTIMONIES BY THE VICTIMS , VISIT http://www.facebook.com/notes/op-anti-sexual-harassmentassault-%D9%82%D9%88%D8%A9-%D8%B6%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%B4%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B9%D8%AA%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B9%D9%8A/testimony-by-an-opantish-member-of-a-sexual-assault-january-25th-2013-tfen/206596659484234