Egypt: 'Female Protesters Systematically Targeted'

Al-Masry Al-Youm

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.”

In this video, army soldiers are seen beating an older female activist named Khadiga al-Hennawy.

While this video shows army soldiers dragging, beating and striping a female protester in the street.

The statement was signed by Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Women and Memory Association.

They also called for the establishment of an independent judicial committee to investigate crimes against peaceful protestors.

The statement argued that the army’s decision to target female activists "is a continuation and escalation of a clear militarization policy against female human rights defenders, which was adopted by the former regime, and which is continuing after the 25 January revolution."

“The frequency of the violence by the armed forces and the police is not a coincidence, but rather a pattern and a policy,” the statement added.

Critics say that the Mubarak regime also used to attack female protesters. In 2005, during an anti-Mubarak demo, female protestors were subjected to sexual harassment by unidentified individuals in civilian clothes. The public prosecutor closed investigations into the case, alleging a lack of evidence.

But as human rights activists argue, perpetrators of sexual crimes against protesters are never punished.

Last March, the army arrested female protestors who were later subjected to humiliating “virginity tests.” The military promised to investigate the case, but no information about the outcome of the investigation has been released.

"The military establishment used sexual violence against female activists so as to marginalize them and prevent them from defending their rights or participating in political events," the statement said.

Moreover, human rights organizations have criticized the official media, saying that it has failed to cover the truth of such practices and overlooks arbitrary arrests and torture of detainees.