News / Middle East

Activists Call for Sexual Abuse Investigation in Egypt

Egyptian women supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi stand inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom in Alexandria, Egypt, Nov. 27, 2013.
Egyptian women supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi stand inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom in Alexandria, Egypt, Nov. 27, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
A group of Egyptian human rights activists is calling on the United Nations to send a fact-finding mission to Egypt to investigate human rights violations against women, including sexual abuse and rape.  The group is attending the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The Egyptian activists’ report to the U.N. Human Rights Council documents flagrant human rights violations suffered by women at the hands of Egypt’s military rulers since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi nearly one year ago.   

The report says the situation for women has worsened because military authorities specifically target them.  They say 50 women have been unlawfully killed during anti-coup protests.  

Between July 3, 2013 and June 1, 2014, the report notes nearly 1,585 female political prisoners have been arrested.  Most of them now have been released pending trial.  About 100 remain detained.
 
The report documents many cases of women prisoners who allegedly have been tortured, humiliated, dragged, physically and sexually abused and raped.  It says female students in particular have been murdered or detained and given harsh sentences.

Dalia Lotfy, a member of the European Alliance of Egyptians for Democracy, said sexual harassment and assault of women was common in prison.  She said these crimes were committed by agents of the government, by security forces and by guards.

“The findings that we have from the files that we received that this horrific crime has become systematic.  The victim is taken to a specific place, which is believed to be the central security camps for one day, raped and then taken to another detention center.  This has been repeated with many victims, which suggests that this crime has become systematic ... And, we believe that it has been taken with the permission or committed with the permission of the high-ranking officers in these prisons' authorities,” said Lotfy.  

On June 4, a law was approved that criminalizes sexual harassment for the first time in Egypt.  Activist Mostafa Soliman said he was taking a wait and see attitude, but was skeptical that the law would improve the lives of women.

“We are facing now a military-backed or military authority.  And, as you know with the military in Egypt, it is a male community - a male community, which is known to have this vision of discrimination to women.  Therefore, I have a lot of doubt of the sincerity or the vision or the interpretation of giving human rights or rights to women by a military-backed regime,” said Soliman.  

By visiting Geneva, the activists say they hope to shed more light on the appalling system of abuse and discrimination that exists in Egypt.  They say they will continue to lobby for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate these violations.

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