December 21, 2011

life in general: egyptians protest against a recent unruly event of militarymen abusing women protestors

In two posts earlier this year (February 1, 2011 and February 4, 2011) I wrote about the dramatic events taking place in Egypt.

This week, too, is seeing similar events. Below are two newsreports and one video that describe the events.


Wednesday, Dec 21 2011 3PM    Last updated at 10:05 AM on 19th December 2011

Day of shame in the Middle East: Female protesters beaten with metal poles as vicious soldiers drag girls through streets

By Inderdeep Bains

Shocking images revealing the brutality of Egypt’s armed forces in quelling protests caused outrage around the world yesterday. 

In a video broadcast on the internet, security forces dressed in riot gear are seen chasing a woman and beating her to the ground with metal bars before stripping her and kicking her repeatedly. One soldier stamps his foot hard on her chest.

After being viciously beaten by the ten-strong mob, the woman lies helplessly on the ground as her shirt is ripped from her body and a man kicks her with full force in her exposed chest.

Moments earlier she had been struck countless times in the head and body with metal batons, not content with the brutal beating delivered by his fellow soldier, one man stamped on her head repeatedly.

She feebly tried to shield her head from the relentless blows with her hands.

But she was knocked unconscious in the shameful attack and left lying motionless as the military men mindlessly continued to beat her limp and half-naked body.

Before she was set upon by the guards, three men appeared to carry her as they tried to flee the approaching military.

But they were too slow and the soldiers caught up with them, capturing the women and knocking one of the men to the ground.

The two other men were forced to abandoned their fellow protestors and continued running, looking helplessly back at the two they left behind being relentlessly attacked as they lay on the ground.

Brutally injured: More than 50 men and women were injured on Saturday in violent clashes between rock-throwing protesters and military police

This is just one of the hundreds of shameful injustices seen in Cairo's Tahrir Square where Egypt's military took a dramatically heavy hand on Saturday to crush protests against its rule.

Clashes with security forces continued for a third day yesterday near Egypt’s parliament. Soldiers erected huge concrete barricades, but an exchange of stones and firebombs continued. The army also used water tanks to spray the crowd and fired gun shots in the air.

At least ten have been killed in the violence, including two children aged 12 and 13. Two died after their skulls were fractured by stones thrown during the battles and at least six were shot dead, despite army and government claims that no live fire was being used.

In Tahrir Square,  centre of the violence, demonstrators demanding an end to military rule have been camped out for the last few weeks. A 14-year-old girl pushed back her headscarf  to reveal a bloodied bandage. She was struck on the head by a stone thrown by a soldier on a rooftop.
Her mother said they had come every day to protest against the brutal methods of the military council which has controlled the country since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted following mass street protests last February. ‘There is no justice in Egypt any more,’ she said.

Aya Emad said that troops dragged her by her headscarf and hair into the Cabinet headquarters. The 24-year-old said soldiers kicked her on the ground, an officer shocked her with an electrical prod and another slapped her on the face, leaving her nose broken and her arm in a sling.

Mona Seif, an activist who was briefly detained Friday, said she saw an officer repeatedly slapping a detained old woman in the face.

'It was a humiliating scene,' Seif told the private TV network Al-Nahar. 'I have never seen this in my life.'

In Bahrain a similar pictured was emerging with a video clip showing a female human rights activist being hit by a policewoman during clashes between police and anti-government protestors.

Police fired teargas to break up a demonstration by several hundred people on the outskirts of the capital, Manama where several women staged a sit-in protest trying to block a main road.

After nearly 48 hours of continuous fighting in Egypt's capital more than 300 were left injured and nine dead, many of them shot dead.

The most sustained crackdown yet is likely a sign that the generals who took power after the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak are confident that the Egyptian public is on its side after two rounds of widely acclaimed parliament elections, that Islamist parties winning the vote will stay out of the fight while pro-democracy protesters become more isolated.

Still, the generals risk turning more Egyptians against them, especially from outrage over the abuse of women.

'Do they think this is manly?' Toqa Nosseir, a 19-year old student, said of the attacks on women. 'Where is the dignity?'
Grief: A woman mourns slain Egyptian protesters who were killed during the latest clashes with Egyptian soldiers, while they wait to receive their bodies in front of the morgue in Cairo

Nosseir joined the protest over her parents' objections because she couldn't tolerate the clashes she had seen.

'No one can approve or accept what is happening here,' she said.

'The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power ... I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.'

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the image of the half-stripped woman on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, 'This is the army that is protecting us!'

'No one can approve or accept what is happening here,' she said.

'The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power ... I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.'

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the image of the half-stripped woman on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, 'This is the army that is protecting us!'

'Are you not ashamed?' leading reform figure and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei posted on Twitter in an address to the ruling military council.

Egypt's new, military-appointed interim prime minister defended the military, denying it shot protesters. He said gunshot deaths were caused by other attackers he didn't identify.

He accused the protesters of being 'anti-revolution.'

The main street between Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the anti-Mubarak protests, and the parliament and Cabinet buildings where the clashes began early the previous morning looked like a war zone on Saturday.

Military police on rooftops pelting protesters below with stones and firebombs and launched truncheon-swinging assaults to drive the crowds back.

Young activists put helmets or buckets on their heads or grabbed sheets of concrete and even satellite dishes as protection against the stones hailing down from the roofs.

The streets were strewn with chunks of concrete, stones ,broken glass, burned furniture and peddlers' carts as clashes continued to rage after nightfall Saturday.

The clashes began early on Friday with a military assault on a 3-week-old sit-in outside the Cabinet building by protesters demanding the military hand over power immediately to civilians.

More than a week of heavy fighting erupted in November, leaving more than 40 dead – but that was largely between police and protesters, with the military keeping a low profile.

In the afternoon, military police charged into Tahrir, swinging truncheons and long sticks, briefly chasing out protesters and setting fire to their tents.

They trashed a field hospital set up by protesters, swept into buildings where television crews were filming and briefly detained journalists. They tossed the camera and equipment of an Al-Jazeera TV crew off the balcony of a building.

A journalist who was briefly detained told The Associated Press that he was beaten up with sticks and fists while being led to into the parliament building. Inside, he saw a group of detained young men and one woman.

Each was surrounded by six or seven soldiers beating him or her with sticks or steel bars or giving electrical shocks with prods.

'Blood covered the floor, and an officer was telling the soldiers to wipe the blood,' said the journalist.

As night fell in Tahrir, clashes continued around a concrete wall that the military erected to block the avenue from Tahrir to parliament.

In Bahrain, Zainab al-Khawaja, 27, was arrested and dragged across the floor by her handcuffs after police fired teargas to break up a demonstration by several hundred people on the outskirts of the capital, Manama.

Ms al-Khawaja and several other women staged a sit-in protest trying to block a main road. The other women fled the scene but Ms al-Khawaja refused.

Riot police fired tear-gas at the women, with dozens requiring hospital treatment after the incident.

A report by a panel of human rights experts in November found that Bahraini security forces had used excessive forces and carried out the systematic abuse of prisoners, including torture, when the regime sent in troops to crush the uprising in March.



Egypt: 10,000 march in protest at woman dragged half-naked through street
Around 10,000 women have marched through central Cairo demanding Egypt's ruling military step down in an unprecedented show of outrage over soldiers who dragged women by the hair and stomped on them, and stripped one half-naked in the street.

7:15AM GMT 21 Dec 2011

Tuesday's dramatic protest, which grew as the women marched from Tahrir Square through downtown, was fueled by the widely circulated images of abuses of women. Many of the marchers touted the photo of the young woman whose clothes were partially pulled off by troops, baring her down to her blue bra, as she struggled on the ground.

"Tantawi stripped your women naked, come join us," the crowd chanted to passers-by, referring to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council that has ruled Egypt since the Feb. 11 fall of Hosni Mubarak. "The daughters of Egypt are a red line," they chanted.

Even before the protest was over, the military council issued an unusually strong statement of regret for what it called "violations" against women - a quick turnaround after days of dismissing the significance of the abuse.

The council expressed "deep regret to the great women of Egypt" and affirmed "its respect and total appreciation" for women and their right to protest and take part in political life. It promised it was taking measures to punish those responsible for violations.

The statement suggested the military's fear that attacks on women could wreck its prestige at home and abroad, which has already been heavily eroded by its fierce, five-day-old crackdown on pro-democracy protesters demanding it surrender power. The ruling generals have campaigned to keep the public on its side in the confrontation, depicting the activists as hooligans and themselves as the honorable protectors of the nation, above reproach.

In unusually harsh words, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday accused the Egyptian security forces and extremists of specifically targeting women.

"This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people," she said.

In a possibly significant hint of new flexibility, the council also said in its statement Tuesday that it was prepared to discuss any initiatives to help the security of the country. In recent days, a number of political factions have pressed the military to hand over power by February, rather than June, when it promised to hold presidential elections.

In the past, police in Mubarak's regime were accused of intentionally humiliating women in protest crackdowns. But images of women being abused by soldiers were particularly shocking in a society that is deeply conservative and generally reveres the military. The independent press has splashed its front pages with pictures of soldiers chasing women protesters, including ones in conservative headscarves and full face-veils, beating them with sticks and clubs and dragging them by their hair. The crackdown has left 14 people dead - all but one by gunshots - and hundreds wounded.

The images of the half-stripped protester, whose identity is not known, clearly had a powerful resonance. A banner showing a photo of her on the asphalt - one soldier yanking up her black robes and shirt, another poised to stomp on her chest - was put up in Tahrir Square for passing drivers to see.

"The girl dragged around is just like my daughter," said Um Hossam, a 54-year old woman in traditional black dress and a headscarf at Tuesday's march. "I am a free woman, and attacking this woman or killing protesters is just like going after one of my own children."

Ringed by a protective chain of men, the women marched from Tahrir to the Journalists' Syndicate, several blocks away, chanting slogans demanding the military council step down.

Many accused the military of intentionally targeting women to scare them and their male relatives from joining protests against the generals. Previously, the military has implied women who joined protests were of loose morals. In March, soldiers subjected detained female protesters to humiliating tests to determine if they were virgins.

"They are trying to break women's spirits, starting with the virginity tests. They want to break their dignity so that they don't go out and protest," Maha Abdel-Nasser, an engineer who joined the march, said.

Two sisters, Yomna and Tasneem Shams, said they never took part in previous protests because their parents wouldn't allow them. But they happened to be downtown Tuesday and spontaneously joined the women's march.

"No one should ever be beaten for expressing their opinion," Yomna, 19, said. "I am proud I took part in today's protest. I feel I can tell my kids I have done something for them in the future."

Some also criticised Islamic parties, which stayed out of the antimilitary protests and did not participate in Tuesday's march - even though religious conservatives often tout their defense of "women's honor." Pro-democracy activists accused them of being worried about anything that might derail ongoing, multistage parliamentary elections, which the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood and the more conservative Al-Nour Party have dominated so far.

"This is a case of honour. But they clearly don't care for honor or religion. They now care only about their political interests," said Mohammed Fawaz, one of the men in the protective chain around the marching women.

The protest also is likely to deepen the predicament of the military as critics began to talk openly about putting them on trial for abuses, and politicians are floating ideas for their exit, perhaps in return for immunity.

Emad Gad, a newly elected lawmaker, said that without guarantees they would not be prosecuted, the generals won't hand over power by the end of June as promised. Foremost on their minds, he said, was the fate of Mubarak, who ended in court facing charges that carry the death penalty after ruling Egypt for nearly 30 years.

"They didn't get clear assurances and that is why they try diabolical tactics to make sure they get these guarantees," he said, citing the military's attempt to enshrine in the next constitution language that would shield it from civilian scrutiny.

"We have to address their fears, their interests and future role," he said.

The public and many activists welcomed the military when it took power from Mubarak in February. But relations have deteriorated sharply since as the democracy activists accused the generals of hijacking their uprising, obstructing reforms, human rights abuses and failing to revive the ailing economy or restore security.

The most recent protests - and an earlier round of protests that saw a deadly crackdown last month - have seen unprecedentedly bold ridiculing of the military, which for decades was considered a revered institution above criticism. Young protesters have heaped profanities into their antimilitary slogans, demanded the execution of Tantawi and taunted soldiers in Tahrir.

On Monday, a member of the military council, Maj. Gen. Adel Emara, took a hard-line in a press conference, denouncing the protests as a conspiracy to "topple the state" and accusing the media of fomenting sedition.

He defended the use of force by troops, saying they had a duty to defend the state's institutions and declined to offer an apology for brutality toward female protesters. He did not dispute the authenticity of the image of the woman being dragged half naked by soldiers, but said Egyptians should not see it without considering the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The apparent change in attitude with Tuesday's statement of regret left some women unimpressed.

Sahar Abdel-Mohsen, a 31-year old activist, doubted the promise to punish those responsible and said the statement was in response to the US criticism. "This is an apology to one woman, Hillary Clinton."

"This is like someone raping a girl, and then going to the police station to marry her (to avoid prosecution) and then divorce her as soon as he leaves," she said. "It is an attempt to exonerate themselves after the deed is done, but with little accountability."

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