Activists and lawyers in Egypt have accused the military of violating human rights in the recent violence in Cairo in which women protestors treated particularly poorly.
A political activist and member of the Egyptian National Assembly for change, Dr. Karima Hefnawi, told the UAE-based 7 Day journal that she held the military responsible for the human rights crimes committed against women, adding that such actions may cause lasting damage to public confidence in military role.
She also said it was crimes against humanity that led to the popular revolt against the old regime in Egypt and such crimes should not be allowed to occur now. She called for immediate and independent investigations into these crimes.
Azza Suleiman, president of the Center for Women’s Issues in Egypt described the incident of the female protestor being stripped by the military as one of the incidents of humiliations women have had to endure and how they have outraged the public. She is quoted as telling 7 Day that such action invited a hail of criticism upon Egyptian Islamists who didn’t do much to condemn the military for beating a defenseless woman with metal poles.
“These shameful attacks on various women in Egyptian streets will not prevent women activists and protestors from demonstrating once again,” she added.
In related news, the young woman who was beaten by military forces and stripped from her abaya and whose images went viral on Friday, has refused to reveal her identity but says that images of her attack should expose the brutality of the military regime.
According to The Associated Press, protesters held up newspapers with the woman’s image on the front page to passing cars on Dec 17, shouting sarcastically, “This is the army that is protecting us!”
Meanwhile, presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei wrote about the incident on Twitter: “Are you not ashamed?” he tweeted, addressing the ruling military council in a reference to reports about violence against women by security forces.
According to Monday’s report in The Guardian, the journalist Hassan Mahmoud who was present when the incident took place has said the woman stumbled as she tried to flee from the military police, who managed to grab her and beat her. “It was clear to me that they wanted to take her away from us but then a few brave protesters came in and started hurling stones and that was the one thing that saved her from their hands,” he is quoted as saying in the British newspaper.
Mahmoud said she told him: “It doesn’t matter if I expose myself to the media or not, their stripping me is enough to reveal the true face of the army in front of those who still have believe in them.”
At least 10 people have died and 505 injured in the past three days of clashes as protesters demand the military step down from power. The violence has overshadowed the second stage of elections that Egyptians hope will bring stability and civilian rule.