For Immediate Release: December 20, 2011
Washington, DC – Today, as thousands of women protested in Cairo against the military’s use of violence against women, Human Rights First applauded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Clinton’s strong criticisms of Egypt’s military rulers for its appalling treatment of women.
“Secretary Clinton was right to criticize the mistreatment of women in Egypt and beyond. The images from Cairo over the weekend of women protesters being stripped, beaten and sexually baited should shock us all. But these attacks are not isolated or simply individual soldiers acting rogue, as the military government would like the international community to believe,” said Human Rights First’s Quinn O’Keefe. “These images are indicative of the systematic targeting of women activists aimed at intimidating them from joining the protests, and to humiliate them in their communities. Many activists argue that the military is using the same tactics as the Mubarak regime to marginalize women from becoming politically active.”
In her remarks at a U.S. Department of State’s women, peace and security event at Georgetown University, Clinton stated, “This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonours the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people. … “Beating women is not cultural, it’s criminal and it needs to be addressed and treated as such.” Her statements were the harshest yet by the administration for the military’s treatment of women.
“Women were at the forefront in Tahrir Square nearly a year ago, many of them as first time activists. Unfortunately, their role in Egypt’s elections and the push for reform is increasingly difficult as they are subjected to street harassment, assault, torture and sexual violence,” added O’Keefe. “The U.S. government is right to call out the military for its appalling record on women’s rights, and as today’s protest shows, more support is needed for the women of Egypt to be safe to speak up for their rights and become politically active.”
Nazra for Feminist Studies and other groups in Cairo are now working to keep women activists engaged and to establish a space in the public sphere that is free from harassment and violence against women. In support, Human Rights First is coordinating peer-to-peer exchanges between Nazra and other women activists from around the region and world who have faced similar transitions and worked to keep new women activists at the forefront of political and social change.