Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Democracy, Virginity, and the Arab Spring

A couple of months ago Amnesty International reported that female protesters arrested during the demonstrations in Cairo had been subjected to “virginity checks” by the military authorities. Spokesmen for the army denied the allegations at the time, but now a general has admitted — and justified — these tests of female virtue.

According to CNN:

Egyptian General Admits ‘Virginity Checks’ Conducted on Protesters

Cairo (CNN) -- A senior Egyptian general admits that “virginity checks” were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or “virginity tests.”

But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

“The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” the general said. “These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs).”

The logic behind the tests is interesting: virginity checks were a necessity, because if the women were not virgins, then any claims that they had been sexually assaulted while in custody could not possibly have any validity.

Of course, if they had been sexually assaulted before the army doctor managed to get their feet into the stirrups, they wouldn’t be virgins anymore, anyway.

That’s some catch, that Catch-22:
The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn’t later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said. “None of them were (virgins).”


Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser and one of the women named in the Amnesty report, described to CNN how uniformed soldiers tied her up on the museum’s grounds, forced her to the ground and slapped her, then shocked her with a stun gun while calling her a prostitute.

“They wanted to teach us a lesson,” Hosseini said soon after the Amnesty report came out. “They wanted to make us feel that we do not have dignity.”

The treatment got worse, Hosseini said, when she and the 16 other female prisoners were taken to a military detention center in Heikstep.

There, she said, she and several of other female detainees were subjected to a “virginity test.”

“We did not agree for a male doctor to perform the test,” she said. But Hosseini said her captors forced her to comply by threatening her with more stun-gun shocks.

“I was going through a nervous breakdown at that moment,” she recalled. “There was no one standing during the test, except for a woman and the male doctor. But several soldiers were standing behind us watching the backside of the bed. I think they had them standing there as witnesses.”

Below is a TV news report (also from CNN) about torture, virginity checks, and other horrors inflicted on the Tahrir Square protesters. Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for YouTubing this video:

Hat tip: AC.


Lawrence said...

Sigh... because... it isn't about what they say it is about. It is about reminding these women of their lesser status in the community. And about seeing if they can get the to give up any names of their accomplices.

Now that the women are dishonored, their families will take care of the rest of the business of the dishonor and the gummint can walk away clean.

The women are probably dead though, once they leave the prison.

Hesperado said...

"Of course, if they had been sexually assaulted before the army doctor managed to get their feet into the stirrups, they wouldn’t be virgins anymore, anyway.

That’s some catch, that Catch-22..."

Prisons in Iran add a further grotesque twist to this Catch 22: if the prison happens to have incarcerated some underage girl sentenced to capital punishment (and Iranian prisons are notorious for executing minors), and the guards think, or know, that the girl is a virgin, they will rape her because their Islam teaches them that a virgin will (or may) escape going to Hell after death. I.e., by raping the girl, the guards ensure that God will send her to Hell.

That datum alone (once verified) is sufficient cause for a coalition of Western nations to fire-bomb every major city in Iran without warning, at the very least.