A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Moment for Outrage: Abuse of Women in Egyptian Custody

The Egyptian Armed Forces Council, now ruling the country, portrays itself as the protector of the Revolution, and is still held in high esteem by many of the young people who made the Revolution. I have known a great many Egyptian senior officers, and have generally admired them more than their counterparts in the political realm. But in addition to its tin ear on the referendum and earlier crackdown on the encampment in Tahrir, we now have a profoundly disturbing accusation. Amnesty International says it has testimony that women arrested in the March 9 crackdown in Tahrir were subjected to strip searches (by women but within the sight of males) and "virginity tests," the latter an invasive examination by a man in a lab coat, accompanied by the threat that those found not to be virgins might be charged with prostitution. One woman who insisted she was a virgin but whose test allegedly "proved" otherwise (suggesting the man in the lab coat was no doctor) was reportedly beaten. The exact nature of these "virginity tests" is not spelled out. I cannot, however, imagine anything that doesn't border on criminal sexual abuse.

This was picked up today by many Western and some Egyptian press outlets, but all you really need to read is the Amnesty report linked above.

Words fail me. Well, not really, but since this is MEI's blog and not my personal pulpit I try to keep it PG-13 at worst, so I can't use the words that come to mind.

If this is true, and Amnesty isn't known for fabricating atrocities, it is a crime and if carried out under the auspices of the Army, a blot on the honor of the Army and of the state it currently represents. The Army denies it, but if anyone in uniform was involved in this, the Armed Forces Council should punish them severely. The honor of a great country and the honor of the uniform demand it.

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