A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Four Years Since the "Blue Bra Woman" Brutality

Last month I noted the fourth anniversary of the "Battle" of Mohamed Mahmoud Street in Cairo in November 2011, a street I once lived on. But if there was any "Battle" between protesters and SCAF in the last months of 2011 that was truly iconic it was the battle of Qasr al-‘Aini Street on November 16-17, 2011. The main reason is the photo above, the notorious "blue bra woman" photo.

As the video below makes clear the woman, and I'm not certain she has ever been conclusively identified, was wearing a hijab and a black abaya. After beating her with sticks,
the soldiers (Military Police) strip back her conservative religious garb to expose her torso except for what became her iconic blue bra.

The still above shows a soldier's boot only inches from her chest. It's bad enough. The video below, for which I feel obliged to issue a "you're going to want to kill these [insert favorite expletive here]-ing bastards" warning, clearly shows him kicking her directly and forcibly twice, striking both exposed breasts. She appears to be unconscious, but one soldier at least reaches down to cover her exposure before leaving.

The fact she was in religious garb exacerbated the outrage, though there is no justification for stripping and stomping any woman. Or man, for that matter.

There was immediate outrage, but global outage has a short shelf life. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the "systematic degradation of women." Mona ElTahawy, herself sexually abused and her arms broken at Mohamed Mahnoud, argued for calling the victim "Tahrir woman," but "blue bra woman" stuck. Even the usually demure and cautious Egyptian blogger who calls herself Zeinobia used a rare obscenity for this obscenity (NSFW): We are Fucked!

It was a huge issue at the time but it was Arab Spring (well, it was December, but you know what I mean).

This went the rounds:
For a while, "blue bra woman" was both a feminist and a sexual abuse icon. Four years later she appears forgotten. So do the "virginity tests" of 2011 when the Army decided intact hymens were a matter of national security and fingers were the means of checking.These were human and sexual atrocities (including explicit rape and other violations) that should not be forgotten, but were flushed down the memory hole.

If you are prepared to see sexual brutality, here is a video.What sort of so-called "man" strips a conservatively dressed religious woman after rendering her unconscious with sticks, and then deliberately stomps on each of her breasts? (Obscene responses in the comments will not be censored, and let me know if others are remembering this atrocity. And if anyone knows what became of her, if she even survived.)


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