Womenhunt in Egypt
Buy Claude Guibal
This 23th October, the chawwal month succeeded the ramadan month. After one month of efforts, Egypt was celebrating with joy and festivities Aïd el-Fitr-day that stands out the end of fast. As every year, in this bank-holiday, the Cairo streets, crowded of people, were resounding of crowd clamours, of bangers and horns concerts. On the town centre pavements, the families in one’s Sunday best were forcing one’s way between the popcorn stand and the shiny windows. A merry people for a popular celebration that, in some hours, seemed to become a collective hysteria.
Malek Mustafa was in café with a bloguers and journalists group. In his blog: http://www.malek-x.net, he’s one of the first to report the events. « People have said that young people, frustrated because of they could not obtain tickets for a film, had broken the box office of Metro Cinema and began to attack the women who passed. »
Malek and his friends, incredulous, go away to verify this. Whereas the streets have begun to empty, they meet one group of about fifty men, elderly of 10 to 40 years, rushing at a young woman, touching her body and tearing out her clothes.
« There is another one here! » shouts the crowd, rushing at another woman, who reach, shirt torn, to escape by rushing into a taxi. « It’s the Aïd el-Fitr-day ». The testimonies are unanimous: veiled or bareheaded, accompanied or not, young, adult, dressed in clothes fitted tightly or hidden under an ample and dark khimar, every woman who is passing knows the same lot, surrounded by the pack, raped by brutal hands. While the older man grab them the breast, the younger rush under their dress, touching every centimetre of their body. The women are howling. The band is struggling. The onlookers are watching, these who try to intervene are beaten.
Tradesmen of this commercial artery arrive, at blows of belt, to make move back attackers, and put some girls traumatized at the shelter behind the lowered grids their stores. Some rare guards of safety, in faction close to a nearby shopping centre, try to act. But the police force, usually prompt to repress any sway in the crowd, abstains from intervening. Malek is intended to answer, of a disillusioned tone “It is Aïd.” It also tells that an officer, seeing one of his companions, Wael Abbas, to take photographs, threatens it of his revolver if it does not cease. In all impunity, the aggressions will last of fallen the day until midnight.
In front of the quasi total dumbness observed by the Egyptian press the following days, the blogueurs decide to broadcast the facts, confirmed in addition by a famous actress, Ola Ghanem, witness of violences.
The ministry for the Interior, summoned by the member of Parliament Mustafa Bakri to be explained, retort that the absence of complaints received by the police force proves that these acts never occurred. On its side, the weekly magazine Rose Al-Youssef, considered as close relation of Gamal Mubarak, the son of the Egyptian president and heir apparent to the capacity, launches in its turn the anathema against Wael Abbas, which put on line the photographs on its site (1).
The newspaper shows it to have entirely manufactured the events, drawn from its “phantasms of patient”, and to attack the image of the country, an offence liable to prison. Then, plot of blogueurs in evil of publicity or absurd refusal of a State taken in fault? In impossibility of knowing with precision what occurred, the whole country plunges in the polemic. Whereas testimonys multiply, and that the debate makes rage in the media, the Egyptian authorities choose, last Tuesday, to prevent by the force a demonstration on the place even of the aggressions. “Last warning! It did without anything here the day Aïd, it is interdict to remain in this street, you leave!” close friend violently an officer with the journalists present.
“This country becomes insane”
Physical arrests, intimidations: the hundreds of policemen in plain clothes and deployed henchmen this day do not hesitate to be shown threatening. In the stores in the vicinity, the tradesmen, badly at ease, contradict themselves. “Yes, of the women were attacked”, tells an employee. “Not, there was nothing the special one”, ensures its owner. “In any event, of the women who trail in the street one day when crowd is so dense, what thus do expect they?” mutte a third. “This country becomes insane”, slips a passer by, frightened by the police deployment, echoing the shouted slogans one week earlier by other demonstrators: “The police force protects Mubarak and its heir, it protects the corruption, but it does not protect any more the people.”
“It is the weakest link”
For most of the Egyptians, this sordid makes various, its treatment and its consequences are in any case symptomatic of all the evils of Egypt. Initially, they highlight the divorce between the State and the population, materialized by a police force which is not perceived any more as with the service of the citizen, but only intended for the maintenance in place of the capacity. “For the first time, the apparatus of State is in war against the ordinary citizen”, regrets the political economist Amr Choubaki, by drawing up a parallel between the absence of police reaction the day of the aggressions and the deployment, the same week, of thousands of members of the forces of safety on the university campuses and in the working unions to prevent an opening of the Moslem Brothers at the time of the trade-union elections.
The political economist enumerates also tragic information which has been hustled with the one of the Egyptian newspapers for one year. Railway catastrophes in series, shipwreck of a ferry with more than thousand passengers on board, absence of drinking water in several districts of Cairo, epidemic related to the water contaminated in the delta of the Nile: behind these dramas, the Egyptians stigmatize the abandonment with the State and the corruption. “I do not want to exonerate those which did that, Ibrahim relativizes, studying at the American university of Cairo. But it is necessary to take into account the frustration of the young people: there is no employment, not future. On the Internet, they see images porn, but they cannot sleep with a girl before the marriage, and a marriage, that is expensive. We marry more and more late, to 30 or 35 years! Then, the helping effect of crowd, some become like mad dogs.”
For South Center for Human Rights, an ONG Egyptian woman, the events of Aïd are indeed “the reflection of the social and cultural problems of the company caused by poverty, and the dominant culture of violence and non-observance of the other. The tolerance of the police force towards these facts recalls her attitude at the time of violences against all the cultural, religious or social minorities, that they are the women, of the Christians”.
“They know that they do not risk anything, remember what occurred before the presidential election, last year!” point out Asma Mahmoud, teaching an inhabitant of Cairo.
On May 25, 2005, indeed, whereas a group of activists expressed against the decision of Hosni Mubarak to amend the Constitution, a troop of bully boys, framed by the police force, had attacked expressing and journalists women, tearing their clothing, and proceeding to contacts. No complaint succeeded.
“If you have meat...”
For the sociologist Dalal el-Bizri, these attacks and the vulgarizing of the sexual harassment daily undergone by the Egyptian women more generally represent a worrying degradation of the feminin statute. It is indeed to the women that falls the responsibility to be dressed and to behave with decency in order not to cause the concupiscence of the men, raises it, also underlining that “these aggressions arrive just after the remarks of the mufti of Australia, which is itself Egyptian”.
Last month, the sheik Tag el Din Hilali, in a sermon which had made scandal, had affirmed, by evoking cases of rapes in Australia: “If you have meat, and that you leave it in the street without covering it, if the cats arrive and eat it, with which it fault? It is the fault of the meat.” And to add: “If the woman were at it, in its room, behind its hijab, there would be no problem.” Dalal el-Bizri also recalls that to Cairo, of the buckled women were attacked the day of Aïd. “But, when one questions the Egyptian women on their motivation to wear the veil, a great number say that in addition to the purely religious motivations, they feel protected, more sizeable while carrying a hijab. These events prove that the veil is not a protection. The risk, it is that the next stage is to return the women to the house, the only place where they are in safety.” According to the sociologist, the embrittlement of the statute of the woman goes hand in hand with the seisms which shake the world arabo-Moslem. “A each confrontation with the Occident, the Gulf war or attacks of September 11, one noted a recrudescence of the port of the hijab. In mentality arabo-Moslem woman, there is this idea that the woman is that which could weaken’’ our combat’’. When the woman is revealed, it is the very whole oumma which one reveals.”
The polemic will have at least made it possible to raise the taboo. In the debates, in the forum and letters to the Editor, of the Egyptian women tell from now on their difficulty of living the permanent sexual harassment to which they are subjected. They reveal how, in this country which however places very high the honor of the women, not a day does not pass without they feeling attacked, by glances, words, gestures. They explain why they avoid the mixed coaches of subway, to take only those reserved to the women, “the only ones where one feels safe”. “Finally, note Amr Choubaki, these events show the failure of the Islamization of this country. One spoken forever as much about morals and religion, but it y forever have as many violence and immoral acts. These facts are all the more shocking that they intervene in a country where the mosques are full. One let people be interested in the religious forms, but not in the contents.
These violences, that one forever known before in Egypt, are also one of symptoms of impotence of population Egyptian, which does not have a means of being expressed politically, which has any more confidence of nothing, not even in the State. All that is likely to lead to chaos.”
Release: Friday December 1, 2006
Cairo, of our corresponding: Claude GUIBAL
From french to english language for mediterraneas.org:
(1) To go directly on the images of the agréssées women: