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Egypt ‘Virginity test' victim waits for her verdict
Published in Bikya Masr on 29 - 11 - 2011

CAIRO: Samira Ibrahim, one of the 13 Egyptian women who was forced to take a “virginity test” in the military prison in Hikestep after attending a protest in Cairo in March, has to wait till December 27 to hear her verdict.
“The prolongation of her case can be seen as another step by the military to bear down attempts of women to speak up and fight against the military's misuse of power, especially with regard to human right violations,” Neveene Edeid, working at the New Woman Foundation (NWF), stated.
“A postponement of such an urgent case bears evidence that it is not taken seriously enough. It is a bad sign of trying to manipulate her case,” she continued.
“However, on the other hand,” Edeid added, “having time till December gives us the possibility to build up more pressure as at the moment everybody is so enthusiastic about the ongoing election process.
“We need human right groups, the youth and women activists for her case but at the moment their thoughts circle around the election.”
Ibrahim, who was electrocuted and forced to take a “virginity test” after attending a protest in Cairo in March in Tahrir Square, was the only out of 17 women who filed an official complaint with the military prosecution to pursue criminal action against her alleged abusers, and registered a case with the State Council Administrative Court to appeal the use of ‘virginity tests' in all military facilities.
Her verdict, which was supposed to take place on Tuesday, November 30, was expected to be either a “monumental day for women's rights in the Middle East, or if history repeats itself, […] a shameful day for women's rights.”
With the postponement of her case to December 27, the latter might come true. “I know the odds are against me” but “I have to speak up about this and fight for justice,” Ibrahim said.
Human Rights Watch interviewed Ibrahim and another victim, Salwa al-Hosseini, and reviewed the testimony of two others obtained by doctors at the Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.
All four concurred in their statements that on the morning of March 10, two officers went into the prison cell holding the 17 women and asked them who among them was married and who was not.
“Then they told the seven of us that they were going to examine us to see if we were really virgins. They took us out one by one. When it was my turn they took me to a bed in a passageway in front of the cell.”
“There were lots of soldiers around and they could see me. I asked if the soldiers could move away and the officer escorting me tasered me. The woman prison guard in plain clothes stood at my head and then a man in military uniform examined me with his hand for several minutes. It was painful. He took his time. It was clear he was doing it on purpose to humiliate me.”
“I was beaten, electrocuted, and forced to strip naked in front of male officers,” Ibrahim told Human Rights Watch.
The official complaint before the Administrative Court states that Ibrahim “was exposed to the ugliest forms of humiliation, torture and a violation of the sanctity of her body.”
In a court hearing on October 25, the State Council lawyer denied this allegation and called for the dismissal of the case based on lack of evidence.
At the moment, five human rights organizations are supporting her case, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, the New Woman Foundation, Nazra for Feminist Studies, and the No to Military Trials Group.
A verdict for Ibrahim could be a remarkable victory not only for Ibrahim, but also for all Egyptian women subjected to sexual assault as most of rape and sexual assault cases in Egypt go unreported.
This is not at least evident by the fact that while Ibrahim's battle has received adequate attention in international press, local Egyptian media has given the 25-year-old little to no coverage.
“It breaks my heart that international outrage over my case is stronger than that of my fellow Egyptians,” Ibrahim says.
Violations against women are therefore hugely underreported in Egypt – one recent report from 2003 found that as many as 98 percent of rape and sexual assault cases are not reported to authorities.
BM


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