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Gang rape, the dark side of Egypt's protests

Posted by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 8:15 AM
  • 11 Replies

Gang rape, the dark side of Egypt's protests

By Nina Burleigh, Special to CNN
updated 10:31 AM EDT, Wed July 3, 2013
Watch this video

Egypt sees a rise in sexual abuse


STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dutch journalist, 22, was gang-raped in Tahrir Square and hospitalized for surgery
  • Nina Burleigh: This is just one of scores of vicious rapes and beatings of female protesters
  • Egyptian women are primary victims, she says. The message is: Stay home
  • She says Muslim Brotherhood misogyny, attitude rapes are justified, infects society

Editor's note: Nina Burleigh is an investigative journalist and author who has reported frequently from the Middle East. Her last book was "The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Italian Trials of Amanda Knox."

(CNN) -- Last week, a 22-year-old Dutch journalist was gang-raped in Tahrir Square and had to undergo surgery for severe injuries. The assault reminds us yet again of an often overlooked aspect of the Egyptian revolution.

When Egyptians overthrew their dictator in 2011, one of the first celebratory acts in Tahrir Square included the gang beating and sexual assault of American journalist Lara Logan, who, like the Dutch journalist, landed in the hospital.

The Logan rape has always been portrayed as another unfortunate byproduct of mob violence. In fact, it was much more than that. It was a warning shot fired by men whose political beliefs are founded on a common pillar: Women must stay out of the public square.

One of the hallmarks of revolutionary victory in Tahrir Square has always been rape and sexual harassment. Mobs of men routinely set upon women, isolating, stripping and groping. No one is ever arrested or held accountable, and elected officials shrug their shoulders and blame the victims.

Vigilante groups have been organized to track the incidents. Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, one of the groups, recorded 46 cases of sexual assaults and harassment against women on Sunday night alone -- and has added 17 more to its list that the group said happened Monday.

Egyptian women are the primary victims of sexual violence, and ultimately they are the intended recipients of the message: Stay home, your input in government and politics is not wanted.

Opinion: Why Egyptian protestors welcome the support of the army



Raping foreign journalists -- guaranteed to attract global attention -- is merely a more efficient way of getting that message across.

When Egyptians overthrew the dictator, the Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of public hatred of the dictator to ally him with Western progressive ideals, including gender equality. Out went the nongovernmental organizations that worked to make divorce easier and inheritance laws fairer. In came the thugs who stripped and beat women in the streets.

Granted, some of these crimes against women were committed by the military and the police themselves, as women like Mona Eltahawy (a journalist whose arms were broken by soldiers) and Samira Ibrahim (a young protester who sued the government, accusing an army doctor of submitting her to a forced "virginity test") have reported.

Dina Zakaria, an Egyptian journalist, reported that the men who raped the Dutch journalist last week called themselves "revolutionists." That label should surprise no one.

If one fervently believes women should stay inside their homes and out of the business of public life, what better way to accomplish that than rampant sexual harassment and sexual assault in a country in which women's virginity and honor is the sine qua non of female participation in society?

Egyptian Salafist preacher Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah said that women protesting in Tahrir Square 'have no shame and want to be raped.'
Nina Burleigh

Not long ago, Egyptian Salafist preacher Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah said that women protesting in Tahrir Square "have no shame and want to be raped." The public face of the Muslim Brotherhood would never espouse such a statement. But its founding intellectual lights never hid the fact that a pillar of their planned theocracy was keeping women powerless. And their record in office is one of sexist exclusion. Women held only eight seats out of 498 (four of the eight women were from the Brotherhood party) in the disbanded Parliament.

Women made up 7% of the constitutional assembly that drafted the Egyptian constitution. No wonder then that the document (approved by referendum in December 2012) refers to women only as sisters and mothers, and only within the framework of family -- not employment or public life, even though a majority of Egyptian women work.

Egypt has always been a place where life for women is nasty and brutish, if not short. Last year, a UNICEF survey showed 91% of Egyptian women between the ages of 15-49 said they had to undergo female genital mutilation. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality in May reported that 99.3% of Egyptian women interviewed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual violence. Rape victims almost never go to the hospital and certainly not the police. There are no medical protocols for rape, and police treat female victims as prostitutes.

Whether or not that violence is political is worthy of discussion. I believe it is. At the moment, no one even debates it. It is the elephant in the room.

As the Egyptian revolution enters another chapter, and more women get stripped and sexually assaulted in the streets while being systematically excluded from the halls of power in Cairo, it is high time for American progressives and other Arab Spring commentators to stop separating anti-female violence from the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood's revolutionaries.

In the broadest sense, the West's response to the treatment of women in post-Arab Spring countries, from Egypt to Syria, says a lot about the status of women here.

We might not be able to do anything to stop violent, organized misogyny in far-off lands, but we can certainly stand up for our own principles and call it what it is.

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Neon Washable Paint

by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 8:15 AM
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Replies (1-10):
NWP
by guerrilla girl on Jul. 4, 2013 at 8:22 AM
3 moms liked this

"The Logan rape has always been portrayed as another unfortunate byproduct of mob violence. In fact, it was much more than that. It was a warning shot fired by men whose political beliefs are founded on a common pillar: Women must stay out of the public square."

Our own extremists are using government time and resources to control women's reproductive rights and access to healthcare. I find it interesting that as more women rise to power in our political system, our own extremists spend more and more time trying to police their bodies.

This is just an extreme example of a problem I do not believe is limited to Egypt or to this part of the world....


Mommabearbergh
by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 8:39 AM
Rape and assault has always been a issue in Egypt sadly. Even before the protest and going to the police didnt always help. Same thing that can happen here victim blaming can come from those who you think will help. During the first protest they let out criminals to terrorize the people.
Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Jul. 4, 2013 at 9:35 AM
Quoting NWP:

Not long ago, Egyptian Salafist preacher Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah said that women protesting in Tahrir Square "have no shame and want to be raped." T

An Egyptian Salafi preacher said raping and sexually harassing women protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is justified, calling them “crusaders” who “have no shame, no fear and not even feminism.”

In an online video posted Wednesday, Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah, known as “Abu Islam” and owner of the private television channel of “al-Ummah,” said these women are no red line.

“They tell you women are a red line. They tell you that naked women -- who are going to Tahrir Square because they want to be raped -- are a red line! And they ask Mursi and the Brotherhood to leave power!,” he said.

Abu Islam added that these women activists are going to Tahrir Square not to protest but to be sexually abused because they had wanted to be raped.

“They have no shame, no fear and not even feminism. Practice your feminism, sheikha! It is a legitimate right for you to be a woman,” he said.

“And by the way, 90 percent of them are crusaders and the remaining 10 percent are widows who have no one to control them. You see women talking like monsters,” he added.

Muslims and Muslimix

Abu Islam further described these female political activists as “devils.”

“You see a woman with this fuzzy hair! A devil! Devils called women. Learn from Muslim women, learn and be Muslims. There are Muslims and Muslimix.”

Abu Islam was apparently referring to liberal Muslims as “Muslimix.”

Several rights groups had recently condemned the sexual harassment and rape which 25 female protesters were subjected to in Tahrir Square during protests held to mark the second anniversary of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak and brought in an Islamist government.

Meanwhile, on the social networking website Twitter, several users received Abu Islam’s statements with fury.

One wrote: “Abu Islam [says] most of those raped are crusaders and the rest are widows; [statements] of a psychopath.” Another tweep wrote: “When will you Egyptians kill Abu Islam? We do not need more [idiots.]”

Another twitter user said: “There are no insults that can describe (these statements.)”

The preacher, whose remarks sparked a controversy, has previously been accused of the defamation of religion. The Public Prosecution has received several notifications accusing him of defaming Christianity through statements he had made to the “Tahrir” newspaper.

He and his son also previously tore and burnt a bible in front of the U.S. Embassy in Egypt during last year’s protest against a U.S.-made film mocking Islam’s founder.

A-nony-mous
by Bronze Member on Jul. 4, 2013 at 11:02 AM

I find it interesting that 

He and his son also previously tore and burnt a bible in front of the U.S. Embassy in Egypt during last year’s protest against a U.S.-made film mocking Islam’s founder.

And there was nothing from the Arab world but the moment someone in the west even thinks about non-lovingly touching a Koran there's worldwide violence and fatwas issued and people are killed. Not to mention the violence in about 13 countries that movie (and a couple other movies) inspired. Hnnn....

muslimah
by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 11:36 AM
1 mom liked this

 Rape and gang rape often leading to murder happens on a daily basis in Detroit. That is why they call Detroit "the murder capital". I wonder what is the reason behind that. Could it be the government? Could it be that women are expected to stay home and not show themselves in public?

I don't think so not anymore that that is the case in Egypt. I have friends and family in Egypt who have the fredom to walk and work freely and have never felt threatened. When my sister in law moved to the U.S.A.she didn't make it a year (maybe 9 months) and she said she was not happy and could not live in the U.S.A. and packed her shit and went back to Cairo. I know many others with the same story.

During the protest of 2011 women and some men bothwere victims of violence which is going to be the case any where there is mass violence and unrule in the streets. It is not the government. Although some government employees, military, and police may have been at guilt they were not raping or gang raping because of any politically motivated reason. Things got crazy and this time they will get crazier. When there is mass uncontrolled protest by tens of thousands of people violence is going to happen no matter what.

Back 2011 my sister called to tell me tha tmy brother in law was missing for days and when he finally made it back home he had been arrested and beaten for almost a week. Violence during over throws and uprisings leading to mass unruly protest does not just target women alone but men as well.

Speaking of what was the current government in place as of yesterday women had their rights they were not excluded or expected to stay home. Egyptian Salafist preacher Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah's opinion had no bearing on how the new Egypt was going to be run, what was going to put in their final Constitution and no bearing on future elections in which women would (just like this last time) have the right to vote.

I am a Brotherhood supporter although Mohammed Morsi is not necessarily my first choice but he was a start and tried to put things in motion but after decades of a county being under dictatorship with a falling apart economy there was only so much he could do in the 17 months he was in power. If Egypt is going to see any results and get on democratic progress as they had a chance to under the Brotherhood and see any results in their economy they are going to have to give someone elected by the people a fair chance and time to sort thing out and build the country up which will probably take years to do.

But I assure you that the majority of the violence against the people of the streets including the women who were/are raped and gang raped were targeted by heated violence and people loosing their mind in the caios or the Mubarak regime and his supporters including the police and army.

As far as female mutilation or circumcision is concerned those days are of old. It is not a common practice and has not been for a longtime. The only time you really even hear of it being done these days is out in small villagesin remote parts of the country who are not in touch with society and still living in the past and still it is not any longer a regular occurrence. I can't even count how many EgyptiansI know here, recently here, and still in Egypt and not one of them has ever been subjected to such a practice.

This article is full of half truths. lies, and is defiantly one sided probably written by a supporter of the dictatorship of Mubarak.

 

 

 

 

stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Jul. 4, 2013 at 12:09 PM

This article, like many others on this subject, focuses on extremists with no actual power and puts them up as the spokespeople for The MB.  The Muslim Brotherhood is not in line with Salifist preachers.  Most salifists are in line with El Noor I believe it is called, a very extreme party on the fringes.  And the people who get quoted are even more extreme then the extremists.  It's kind of like quoting Glenn Beck and saying his views represent the Republican Party.  

And I love UNICEF but I am shocked at the number they reported of FGM in Egypt.  How exactly did they arrive at that number?  Of all the Egyptians I know there is not ONE in groups of family or friends that had it done or supported it in any way.  The times it was discussed it was always with shock and sadness that such a thing could happen, and how it goes against the rights of women in Islam to enjoy her health and her body as God made it, and to enjoy sex with her husband.   And many of these people are Muslim Brotherhood supporters, very observant and religious.

My husband does not know one woman who has had this done.  I asked him about it long ago and he said that it was not common and not supported by Islam.

Anyway while I am sure there are plenty of raping assholes in Egypt thrilled to have a police force looking the other way (the police in Egypt are VERY corrupt, by the way, violent and criminal themselves) I think putting blame on politics or religion is ignoring the real issues they are facing there, the true problems with the police and the courts that are preventing women from having a true recourse for violence committed against them.

muslimah
by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 12:19 PM

 

Quoting Mommabearbergh:

Rape and assault has always been a issue in Egypt sadly. Even before the protest and going to the police didnt always help. Same thing that can happen here victim blaming can come from those who you think will help. During the first protest they let out criminals to terrorize the people.

 Like you said rape and other crime is everywhere including the U.S.A. It did sadly get out of hand during the violent parts of the protesting in Cairo but over all is in most of the Arab world and many north African countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco just to name a few the crime rates including rape are drastically lower than in the U.S.A.

Mommabearbergh
by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 1:53 PM


They could be drastically lower because they aren't reported. Like here in Mass drug crimes weren't always reported  in south boston and if you looked at the stats it would lead you to believe southie was a safe district of boston. It wasn't but because of less people reporting things would happen for a long time out of fear. Just because something seems lower doesn't always mean that its not going on.

Quoting muslimah:

 

Quoting Mommabearbergh:

Rape and assault has always been a issue in Egypt sadly. Even before the protest and going to the police didnt always help. Same thing that can happen here victim blaming can come from those who you think will help. During the first protest they let out criminals to terrorize the people.

 Like you said rape and other crime is everywhere including the U.S.A. It did sadly get out of hand during the violent parts of the protesting in Cairo but over all is in most of the Arab world and many north African countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco just to name a few the crime rates including rape are drastically lower than in the U.S.A.



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muslimah
by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 2:13 PM

 

Quoting Mommabearbergh:

 

They could be drastically lower because they aren't reported. Like here in Mass drug crimes weren't always reported  in south boston and if you looked at the stats it would lead you to believe southie was a safe district of boston. It wasn't but because of less people reporting things would happen for a long time out of fear. Just because something seems lower doesn't always mean that its not going on.

Quoting muslimah:

 

Quoting Mommabearbergh:

Rape and assault has always been a issue in Egypt sadly. Even before the protest and going to the police didnt always help. Same thing that can happen here victim blaming can come from those who you think will help. During the first protest they let out criminals to terrorize the people.

 Like you said rape and other crime is everywhere including the U.S.A. It did sadly get out of hand during the violent parts of the protesting in Cairo but over all is in most of the Arab world and many north African countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco just to name a few the crime rates including rape are drastically lower than in the U.S.A.

 

 

 I understand what you are saying and that is a logical thought. However (let me give an example here) When we were in Saudi a few years back and prayer time would come or the daily time of rest of the day store owners, jewelers with millions of dollars worth of merchandise would leave their places of businesses open, unlocked anyone had access to them to take whatever they pleased but that was not a worry .People can leave their homes and businesses unlocked and opened unsupervised and find it just the way they left it the next day. Try that in Detroit and you will find your self robbed blind.

Like I said your logic is here is a very logical conclusion but being familiar with with the Arab world and having family both in Iraq and Egypt I can for sure say that is not the case.

Now I am not speaking in reguards to the recent sectarian violence since the down fall of Sunni power  in Iraq or the on going as we speak protest in Egypt. I am speaking in terms of every day normal life.

Mommabearbergh
by on Jul. 4, 2013 at 2:26 PM


Yes here and there have a different climate when it comes to certain things. Saudi in general is a very different country then a lot of Islamic countries in general. I to have friends who are in egypt and they speak very candidly about the things that happen there.  I still go with things happen and people don't always report it. I am not speaking as someone who is going off docus or al jazerra reports. I am speaking as someone who talks with other people who have grown up there and live there still. Everyones experience in life is different so on this I am going to agree to disagree  with you. 

Quoting muslimah:

 

Quoting Mommabearbergh:


They could be drastically lower because they aren't reported. Like here in Mass drug crimes weren't always reported  in south boston and if you looked at the stats it would lead you to believe southie was a safe district of boston. It wasn't but because of less people reporting things would happen for a long time out of fear. Just because something seems lower doesn't always mean that its not going on.

Quoting muslimah:

 

Quoting Mommabearbergh:

Rape and assault has always been a issue in Egypt sadly. Even before the protest and going to the police didnt always help. Same thing that can happen here victim blaming can come from those who you think will help. During the first protest they let out criminals to terrorize the people.

 Like you said rape and other crime is everywhere including the U.S.A. It did sadly get out of hand during the violent parts of the protesting in Cairo but over all is in most of the Arab world and many north African countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco just to name a few the crime rates including rape are drastically lower than in the U.S.A.



 I understand what you are saying and that is a logical thought. However (let me give an example here) When we were in Saudi a few years back and prayer time would come or the daily time of rest of the day store owners, jewelers with millions of dollars worth of merchandise would leave their places of businesses open, unlocked anyone had access to them to take whatever they pleased but that was not a worry .People can leave their homes and businesses unlocked and opened unsupervised and find it just the way they left it the next day. Try that in Detroit and you will find your self robbed blind.

Like I said your logic is here is a very logical conclusion but being familiar with with the Arab world and having family both in Iraq and Egypt I can for sure say that is not the case.

Now I am not speaking in reguards to the recent sectarian violence since the down fall of Sunni power  in Iraq or the on going as we speak protest in Egypt. I am speaking in terms of every day normal life.



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