الاثنين، مارس 05، 2012

My Speech in The International Conference to Celebrate International Women’s Day - Egyptian women and the year of the revolution, repression and persecution

 Dear audience ...
At first, I would like to pay tribute to the organizers of this conference, and thank them for inviting me to participate in the sessions but I was not able to attend due to circumstances beyond my control, I draw you my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the International Women's Day, which commemorates the struggle waged by women in various parts of the world in order to fight for equality and rights, which had been denied to them in the past.
In this context I would like to summarize the status of women during the period following the revolution of the 25th of January 2011.The revolution that has overthrown the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. The revolution, in which women have strongly participated, made many sacrifices for, during which many of whom have been shot dead by police forces or gangs loyal to the former regime, or have gotten seriously injured and are still getting treatment till this very day.

Egyptian women who have participated in the Revolution were later subject to many injustices and inequities. Especially after the currents of political Islam had gotten the support of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which have granted them a large role in the political process.

Women are always the first source of threat to any brutal political force, as they constitute more than half of society and as the women's solidarity for the defense of their rights threaten any social system based on out-dated traditions and customs.

The war on women began on the second day of the fall of the former regime, led by the currents of political Islam, who announced on the second day of the fall of the regime its willingness to be the substitute of the former regime. We woke up one morning to surprisingly find thousands of posters covering the walls calling for the application of Islamic law and opposing any calls for the repeal of Article II of the Egyptian Constitution, which states that "Islam is the state religion and Arabic is its official language and Islamic law the main source of legislation".

A few days later we started noticing those who'd been repressed in the era of the former regime taking over the streets, and beginning to apply some of their views in the real world. Some of these views had tragic consequences for example cutting the ear off of a Coptic citizen and demolishing and burning of some churches. They have become a threat to everyone. I had to leave the city of Alexandria and life in Cairo to escape the on-going death threats and later I had to leave the country when things have evolved for the worse and they had won the majority of seats in the parliament and are just within an ace of controlling all of the state institutions and Islamizing them according to their will with the support of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which seem to have found their interest in supporting the Islamists so that they can cause maximum chaos in the country, which might later lead to their intervention and the imposition of military rule under the pretext of safeguarding security and stability.
On the 25th of February 2011 the military police forced people out of protesting at the heart of Tahrir Square, arrested several protesters, including women, charged them with vandalism of public property, and took them to a military prison, where they were subjected to virginity tests (the incident was not reported by these women who have been detained but was revealed later by Samira Ibrahim who had gone through the virginity test on March 9th and had sued the prison administration and the military council).

On the 8th of March, in the Tahrir Square had been organized a march by the feminists in order to celebrate the International Women's Day, and to emphasize the role of women in public life and the demand that women have their full rights granted. Participants of the march have been subjected to group harassment and assault with no interference from the military, and the following video shows the part of harassment and testimony of some of the victims.


The next day (the 9th of March) at the Tahrir Square the Armed Forces have arrested dozens of protesters, both men and women, taken them to the Egyptian Museum and tortured them with beatings and electric shocks before some of them had been deported to military prison. Among them were seventeen women who have been subjected to sexual insults and threats of fabricating prostitution cases against them. Upon arrival at the military prison those women were tested for whether they were virgins or not. According to the testimony of some of the victims some of the soldiers watched what was happening inside the room through the window, and filmed the victims using camera mobile phones which made the women afraid of being blackmailed with the footage.

Later Samira Ibrahim, one of the girls who had the virginity tests filed a lawsuit against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the officers of the military prison who were involved in the incident. The case is still pending before the judiciary, and in the same context, a military leader testified that the virginity tests are being carried out and tried to justify it when he told CNN that "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in the Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and [drugs]." The general said the virginity tests were conducted to prevent the women from claiming they had been raped in custody.

"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place" 

Testimonies of some of the victims :
The testimony of Salwa Alhussiny: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajCe1km7UFM)
The testimony of Samira Ibrahim :

Both videos have English subtitles, please show it during the conference sessions
The testimony of Racha Abdelrahman :

Islamic extremists raised the issue of family and child law, a law which had been passed during the era of the former regime, which raised the age of child custody to fifteen years, and gave women the right to custody of their children, and men the right to see their children for three hours a week. They demanded the abolition of these laws and all laws relating to women including the law that gave women the right to file for divorce
, and also the law which allow women to have a secret marriage.
The abuses against women did not stop at this point, at the political level, the parliamentary quota for women which was introduced by the ex-regime have been cancelled, leaders of some Islamic parties which won the elections announced afterwards that they intent to obligate women to wear the veil (hijab), they said that they had to put a women on their electoral lists although they believe that women have no right to participate in politics and election, and they had to use women to prevent people from liberal and secular backgrounds to take the majority in parliament and moreover the law obligates them to put women on their electoral lists .
In this context, Al-Nour Party, one of the new parties established after the revolution with Islamic Salafi background, made posters for their candidates in the elections and put the names of male candidates alongside with their photos, but replaced the photos of women with a flower or with its logo. They referred to the fact that they believe that a woman’s photo is a shame and should not appeared on their posters.
A picture of this Poster:

Throughout the last year, women participated in sit-ins and demonstrations against the ex-regime and SCAF, were subjected to the worst forms of violations. In the same context, the leaders of SCAF and their Islamistic allies tried to play on the strings of culture, prevailing discrimination in the community and hostility towards women, thus some of them were spreading false rumors about sexual relations inside the tents on the Square, trying to justify the abuses which they made towards the protesters and demonstrators.
At the end of December, while the army stopped the protest, in front of the Council of Ministers were beaten a number of girls who were participating in the sit-in. There is video showing some soldiers ripping off the girl’s clothes and pulling them down on the street. Some leaders of the army, loyal to them, were defending them and trying to justify what happened, but the scandal had too big, the military council is no longer able to provide convincing justifications for these ugly incidents.

Video of the crime and of the girl’s harassment (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJf_9vXhAwY)

Testimony of Ghada Kamal - one of the girls who have been subjected to attacks in December last year (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89HWDWxm-Og) video in Arabic, I could not find a translation in English.

I tried as much as possible to sum up the situation of women in Egypt during the past year, a situation which does not bode well, especially considering the Islamic movements coming to power in alliance with the military council, and the statements issued by some of their leaders announcing their intention to impose more restrictions on women in society in accordance with the rules of Islamic law.  The rules which they intend to apply are threatening the future of women in Egypt, and setting the legal and social achievements of the past decades in risk of reverse.

In fact, Egypt is one of the countries that signed the CEDAW to combat all forms of discrimination against women, but in reality, the agreement is not working. There are some reactionary forces calling for the abolition of the ratification of this Convention, so in this speech I would  propose that during this Conference there will be made recommendations to amend CEDAW by making it binding to all Member States of the United Nations, and also to these countries that have not signed it, and implement strict sanctions on governments that do not include the provisions of this Agreement in their national legislation or just pretend to do it.

Thank you for listening
Kareem Amer

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