Thousands of Egyptian Women March Against Protest Beatings

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Photo: Asmaa Waguih/REUTERS

Tahrir Square was filled with thousands of women this afternoon, often guarded by groups of male demonstrators, on a fifth straight day of protests against military rule in Egypt ahead of the country's democratic elections. During this recent spate of protests, at least thirteen people have been killed and more than 600 injured, but no moment has been as iconic as the images of Egyptian soldiers dragging and beating a female protester, her blue bra bared by their manhandling of her clothes. "The reason for the protest is the picture and the video that was published by news services around the world, and it showed us to what extent the military council has no qualms about trampling on the women of Egypt and the girls of Egypt, and has no qualms about beating them up and stripping them naked," explained one demonstrator today. 

Egypt's army council says the catalyzing clash was an isolated incident. "Before you open the newspaper, fold it; I know what I'm talking about," said General Adel Emara. "Yes, this scene took place, and we're investigating it. But let's look at the whole picture and see the circumstances the picture was taken in, and we will announce the complete truth." Then he turned on the journalists questioning him: "When you want to speak, tell me to stop talking!” Later he warned, “If you talk, I’ll kick you out."

Emara contended that the "armed forces and the police pledged not to use violence against protesters actively or even verbally," but cautioned against "the abuse of freedom," which "leads to chaos and the fall of the state, instead of the fall of the regime," he said.

In a speech yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago." She added, "This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people."

A retired army general went a step further toward dishonor in response to the burning of a government building during protests. "What is your feeling when you see Egypt and its history burn in front of you?" said Abdel Moneim Kato, an army adviser. "Yet you worry about a vagrant who should be burnt in Hitler's incinerators."