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Jihan Hafiz reports on a historic march of 10,000 women mobilized in central Cairo against military rule
JIHAN HAFIZ, CAIRO CORRESPONDENT, TRNN: It was the image that has come to symbolize how far Egypt’s military junta is willing to brutalize pro-democracy demonstrators–namely, women. An unconscious woman being beaten by soldiers over the weekend, stripped to her bra in broad daylight, and then stomped on has set off national and international condemnation.
CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Egyptian women don’t get stripped! Lift your head up! The people want to bring down the field marshal!
HAFIZ: The outcry has led to this, a march of historic and epic proportions. It was the largest women’s march in nearly a hundred years. Egyptian women came out in mass, expressing their outrage over the military’s malicious abuses against women.
RAJIA OMRAN, LAWYER: A this is a veiled–actually, a woman with a niqab who has been stripped by the Egyptian army. This protest or this march is to condemn this violence, to condemn this lack of respect.
CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Egyptian women have no fear! She won’t be afraid, nor will she accept it! We leave it to you to be voiceless!
HAFIZ: The march was organized online through Twitter and Facebook. Activists publicized it as the bluebra girl and called on women to dress in black. Many women here say the march is to reclaim their dignity and rights.
HODA, TEACHER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Our sisters are being stripped by the military council. It doesn’t matter to them if they are women or any Egyptian citizen or religion. I don’t think it matters to them which religion the victim has. We’re here seeking justice for these people and the martyrs and the blood being spilled in Tahrir. The rights we’re unable to seek from the courts the Egyptian people will get themselves. Down with the military regime.
OMRAN: The women have been have been just as well on the front lines defending the hospitals and the marches. As lawyers, we have always been part of this society and this revolution. And the attempts to disgrace the Egyptian women and to violate them is a way to make people be scared, to make girls and women not go down. And this is not going to happen, as you can see from the presence today. It’s a huge turnout.
HAFIZ: The military council attempted to defend the army’s abuse of women by slandering the blue bra girl for not wearing more clothing under her abaya, a long black covering worn by devout Muslim women.
MARWA MAGDY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): With regards to the woman who was caught, everyone was focused on what she was wearing, what she was doing. And it’s wrong for Egyptians to only be concerned with that aspect. Other countries don’t nitpick on what their prisoners of war are wearing. Where are the most basic human rights and dignity? What is the relationship with what happened and what she was wearing? What are you people doing about this? Why are you judging whether or not she’s wearing a T-shirt underneath? That’s not the point! What’s important is condemning what happened. Look from above!
CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Down with the military regime!
HAFIZ: The march included a wide spectrum of Egyptian women, transcending class divides. Women from all walks of life attended the march; mothers came out with their daughters and sons as Christian women stood by Muslim women.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I have only one message to the military council: enough; leave. After what’s happened, they shouldn’t stay for another minute.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Egypt’s women cannot be stripped, and we are not going to stay quiet about the blockade at the parliament buildings. Every day we hear cries in the streets, we are not going to be silenced. Egypt’s men need to join us!
HAFIZ: This March originally started in Tahrir Square with a couple of hundreds of people. And as it made its way around the downtown area, it quickly turned into thousands. We’re now walking through some of the main arteries of the downtown area and heading back to Tahrir Square. Some of the chants you can hear around us show you the sheer anger people have toward the military council, and that the humiliation of the Egyptian people in general is directly linked to the humiliation of Egyptian women.
CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Freedom! Freedom!
HAFIZ: In Egypt, sexually humiliating women implicates the honor of the family, and especially of the men.
CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Egyptian women are the red line!
HAFIZ: Men and young boys emphasize their protection of women by forming this human chain around the march.
KHALED ABDEL RADAE, JOURNALIST (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I am here because of what we saw and happened with the woman. This isn’t something that would please any Egyptian to see, and especially because we are Egyptians. I don’t know how people can still question why she was out. My response to that is: she is more of a man to have been out there than all of the men saying that about her.
HAFIZ: Hours before the march was held, the military council issued a statement–ironically, titled “Egypt’s great women”–where the council expressed “deep regret” for the violence. The statement echoed hollow amongst the women here.
CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Speak out! Have no fear! The military council must leave!
HAFIZ: The head of the UN’s Commission on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said on Monday: “The ruthless violence being used against unarmed women protesters is especially shocking and cannot be left unpunished. There have also been extremely disturbing reports of the ill-treatment of women in detention.” Amnesty International’s latest report on human rights violations cites the army forcing virginity tests on female activists while beating and torturing women in detention. During the January 25th Revolution, Egyptian women became a powerful force on the streets and at home, serving as medics, volunteering as security, and supplying food and aid to protesters in the square. Today, women are often seen fighting on the front lines, preparing rocks and molotov cocktails for protesters, and serving as first aid responders whenever the violence breaks out. Activists accuse the military of targeting women at protests to intimidate them and their male relatives from their involvement in the revolution. But excessive violence against women has only galvanized them into the streets. Human rights activists see the march as an indication that women, once marginalized for politically organizing, will no longer remain the silent majority. Jihan Hafiz for The Real News in Cairo, Egypt.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.