A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Secretary Clinton Denounces "Systematic Degradation of Women" in Egypt

Secretary of State Clinton yesterday: "This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people." Fuller quote and link are below.

Neither "the photo" nor the story are going away, whatever SCAF may wish. It's being discussed everywhere,While I also blame the protesters for provoking the military to some extent, there is no excuse for this sort of behavior.

If you weren't enraged the first time you saw this photo, let me warn you that closeups don't make it any better. Sorry to subject you to the brutality again, but it gets worse with detail. Look at the closeup. The young woman is clearly wearing what appears to be a conservative abaya, and thus also hijab. Stripping her is thus even more offensive and misogynistic.

If you look at the closeup video below (though it's also visible in the more wide angle video I previously posted, and is the second video below, with the assault around (0:58), you'll see that the bastard on the right does exactly what it looks like he's about to do: kicks her directly in her breasts, twiceat about 0:42 and 0:47 in this video. She is protected only by her now world famous blue bra. At least he's wearing soft shoes, not a jackboot. I'm sure she's grateful, if she lived. If you can stomach it, watch both videos in fullscreen  mode.

Speaking as someone who has known Egypt for nearly 40 years, worked closely with the Egyptian military for about 8, supported our $1.3 billion in aid (mostly military) till about now, but also despise misogyny, sexual abuse, and the subjugation of women, I am still outraged. SCAF says it's responding to provocateurs. I admit I think the protesters share blame here, not least for the destruction of the Institut d'Egypte, but I cannot imagine any provocation that could justify those kicks.  Secretary of State Clinton spoke out directly about the abuse of women, speaking at my alma mater, Georgetown, yesterday:
Recent events in Egypt have been particularly shocking.  Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago.  And this is part of a deeply troubling pattern.  Egyptian women have been largely shut out of decision-making in the transition by both the military authorities and the major political parties.  At the same time, they have been specifically targeted both by security forces and by extremists.
Marchers celebrating International Women’s Day were harassed and abused.  Women protesters have been rounded up and subjected to horrific abuse.  Journalists have been sexually assaulted.  And now, women are being attacked, stripped, and beaten in the streets.  This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people.  As some Egyptian politicians and commentators have themselves noted, a new democracy cannot be built on the persecution of women, nor can any stable society.  Whether it’s ending conflict, managing a transition, or rebuilding a country, the world cannot afford to continue ignoring half the population.  Not only can we do better; we have to do better, and now we have a path forward as to how we will do better.
Mona Eltahawy, herself a recent victim of beating, broken bones and sexual abuse at official hands, talks to CBC about the latest incident:

I hope SCAF remembers whose tax dollars are buying their equipment. Mine. I am restraining myself from expressing how angry this makes me, but not everyone is.  I'll keep strong language off here for the moment (though they're pushing me), but it's no coincidence, that this (language warning) is a popular twitter hashtag.

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