Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Unknown Entities

"This is a threat to our security. It is a question for every government we have had over the past decade: What are you going to do about it?"
Ghada Shahbander, human rights advocate, Cairo

"Unknown entities [were plotting] to commit such heinous acts in a systematic way to ruin Egyptians' happiness and taint the image of its democratic celebration."
"Such shameful and immoral behaviour cannot come from the honourable Egyptians."
Egyptian National Council of Women

"Of course, you saw the officers interfering and taking the woman away from the scene."
"The celebrations included large crowds that reached thousands and millions in some cases and harassment happens in these crowds."
"[But] the police confront it in a vigorous way."
Hany Abdel Latif, spokesman, Egyptian Interior Ministry
Sissi inauguration
Crowd at Cairo's Tahrir Square for Sissi's inauguration, June 8, 2014. Photo by AP
Egyptians assert this is not indicative of the manner in which they perceive the place of women in their society. Not at all. On the other hand, Egypt, though an Arab country, and the most populous at that, is also part of Africa. Rape of women and girls is common throughout Africa. In a country as supposedly civilly advanced as South Africa even its president, newly re-elected, has raped a woman who trusted him, and throughout the country there is a shared common belief that raping a virgin, whatever her age, represents an assured remedy for HIV/AIDS.

In much of Africa rape is a game that both the military and rebel insurgents play at, in Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the Central African Republic, in Sudan and in Somalia, to name but a few of the more obvious of human rights offender-regimes, where tribal and religious-sectarian wars victimize the most helpless; women and children.

Egypt has undergone a transition, actually a double-transition from a military-ruled state to a brief intermission as an Islamist-ruled state and back again to a military state, though the chief military officer has resigned from the military to 'run' as a candidate for presidency in a democratic vote whose outcome was unofficially crowned well before the votes were cast and counted. Which is not to say that the successful candidate would not be more humane, administratively capable, and able to do justice to his role of ruler in Egypt.

President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi stated his intention to "restore the sense of shame" he claimed once prevented sexual harassment among Egyptian males, as predators of women. The penal code was amended to more carefully define sexual harassment, spelling out its punishment. But the issue is still given short shrift. With more than ample incidents of sexual assaults leading up to the president's inauguration. Even the National Council of Women, backing the new president, celebrating the removal of his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, insist Egyptian men do not resort to such disgusting tactics.

Even when, it seems, they do -- as a video made public showing a police officer, a lone, single man in uniform, gun in hand, struggling to make his way through a crowd of men to rescue a girl from mass rape. Miraculously, he managed to reach the young woman of 17 before the frenzied men surrounding her were able to demonstrate their Egyptian credentials as gentlemen, as they had done first to her mother. The video showed the girl, only a black shirt left, backside bruised purple and black, the last vestige of clothing torn away, leaving her completely stripped. Which was when the courageous lone policeman was able to carry her to a waiting vehicle.

This, in the fabled Tahrir Square. Where hundreds of such incidents have taken place, including sexual assaults on foreign female journalists. The mother of the rescued young girl, who was herself brutally sexually assaulted before the mob turned on her daughter, is now in hospital after her fearsome Monday ordeal. President al-Sissi visited her, to do her honour, visibly moved at the dishonour done her, the abhorrent physical and psychological trauma.

An Egyptian independent group calling itself I Saw Harassment stated that on Sunday night at least four attack victims required hospitalization. Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, another group, stated it was investigating victims of "tens of assaults" that took place on Sunday night alone. Filming the inaugural celebrations, the official state television network found their work cut out for them, avoiding the prevalent sexual violence in the crowds gathered in the square.

The screams of women interrupted broadcast of a nationalistic poet attempting to perform a recitation on Sunday night onstage, with a man next to him urging, "Play a song to distract them!" As the screams grew in volume, another man seizing the microphone shouted: "Young men please move away from the girls! Men, young men, get back!"

Monday's Interior Ministry statement indicated that police had arrested seven men and boys ranging in age from 15 to 49, for 'harassment'.

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