Women are targets of repression in Egypt

In November last year 14 young women in Egypt found themselves in a rather bizarre surrounding. Police had dumped them in the desert far away from Cairo and their homes.

They had been arrested for protesting against draconian laws banning public demonstrations and trial of the civilians who took part in the uprising against Hosni Mubarak. They walked back to Cairo, exhausted and baked, and alleged that while in police custody, they suffered massive ignominy at the hands of their captors — beaten and abused.

On October 31, 2013, following a peaceful pro-Mursi demonstration, 21 female protesters were subjected to sexual violence, convicted and imprisoned. Over 90 women were openly molested, raped and beaten up by ruffians that Hosni Mubarak unleashed on the Tahrir protestors in a desperate bid to break the movement, which ultimately pulled the former dictator down.

One picture of 2011 appalled the world. Hosni Mubarak was still in power and protestors at Tahrir Square were still swelling in number. During a police crackdown on the protestors a young woman was seen being dragged down by a few policemen. She was almost stripped to bare minimum, her abaya yanked and policeman kicking her belly. The picture not only became a symbol of police atrocity but also of an infamy of which Egypt probably would never ever be able to come out. The world hanged its head in shame.

Unfortunately, Egypt did not. Its hooligans, its police and its military still continue with the disgraceful legacy of targeting women, sexually abusing them, beating them and imprisoning them for not agreeing with whoever had been in power.

Egyptians got rid of Mubarak, in a coup the military toppled the country's first ever elected president promising the gullible teeming millions equality, fraternity, liberty and rule of law. Yet, women in Egypt continued to live in utter ignominy — as targets of not only lust but also of unspeakable
violence and torture.

They say, if you are a woman you must not be in Egypt. Egypt is the worst place for women in the Arab world says a survey report of Thomson Reuters Foundation. And it is true. The survey on "women's rights in the region puts Egypt at the bottom — thereby silencing those voices that take up the fight against antiquated social perceptions and discrimination."

The fall of Mubarak has not augured well for Egypt and most so for the women of the country. For them the past three years have been the most harrowing — a journey back to the Stone Age. They have suddenly become the receiving end of all measures rulers and ruling parties in Egypt undertook to quell political unrest. They are systematically raped, beaten, abused and imprisoned to break the morale of political opponents.

It is a medieval age out there in Egypt today when barbarian plunderers not only looted and killed but also ravaged women to bring the conquered down on their knees. And worst, in Egypt today the perpetrators are the law enforces (police) and men in uniform (the army) whom the citizens have always trusted and revered.

The liberal and secular Egyptians brought the dictatorship of the army and facilitated a coup to boot out Mohamed Mursi because they feared that Muslim Brotherhood was taking the country on the path of complete Islamisation. 

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who usurped power promised the country better governance but in reality continued with the despicable policy of violence against women as a weapon to subjugate.

Authorities deny this and their denial is predictable. Yet, a senior  of the army which now rules the nation reportedly said that the women who partake in demonstrations along with men on streets can never be and are not the daughters and sisters of Egypt.
As it is we are appalled by the soaring instances of violence, abuse and maltreatment of women in the country we were further shocked by the reports of what he said. Didn't he very tacitly justify what his soldiers are doing against Egypt's daughters and sisters on the streets and inside police stations?
Oh! What a shame.

Field Marshal Sisi and his soldiers know that killing is messy. Even a drop of blood spilled stirs strong emotion, evokes outcry world over. Stains of blood are not easy to hide. But ravaging women isn't that difficult a task to cover. And, especially so when the new pharaoh is the monarch of all he surveys.

And then he and his boys have in their favour a tacit indulgence of the patriarchal society which has been the biggest sponsor of the coup they pulled up to kill democracy.

Politically, the revolution which brought down the dictator Mubarak was a failure. Egypt has gone back to the square one with just a change of face. Dictatorship has returned with  Sisi. The country did not get what it had yearned for. And for the women too the revolution had not been the point from where they and their status in society could have progressed.

A highly visible poster at a demonstration of women against rising violence against them said loud and clear: "He who violates the honour of our girls cannot be entrusted with our country."

But did anyone notice what the poster said, especially the country new pharaoh Sisi? Evidently not or else how could he agree to fight elections for president's position?

The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman


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