Badass Egyptian Women: Samira Ibrahim
Back with this and starting with a woman I should have written about long before.
After Samira Ibrahim, along with six other women, was subjected to a so-called “virginity test” last March, having been arrested in Tahrir Square, she bravely came forward and spoke publicly, and in detail, about what Amnesty International calls “a form of torture:”
“In the virginity test case, I was forced to take off my clothes in front of military officials,” says Samira.
“I know that to violate a woman in that way was considered rape,” she says. “I felt like I had been raped.”
After initially denying that such tests ever took place, the Egyptian military later admitted that they had carried out the tests, with the bizarre justification that they were necessary in order to protect soldiers against allegations of rape:
“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,” he said. “The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine. 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).”
Despite warnings and death threats, Ibrahim flied a lawsuit against the ruling military and, in December last year, forced virginity tests were ruled illegal.
In response, however, one Egyptian academic, Amira Nowaira, sounded a note of caution:
“Nobody had heard of the virginity tests before so it is good a court has said they cannot be used. People should be prosecuted but it’s going to be hard, even assigning blame will be difficult. Who is ultimately responsible?”
Last week a military doctor was cleared of the charge of carrying out virginity tests on female detainees — he had initially been charged with rape; had that charge dropped and was facing the charge of “public indecency” in this case — meaning that this torture looks set to go unpunished and no one held accountable.
In the press articles from the verdict Samira Ibrahim looks devasted, but her comments are defiant: On Twitter she wrote:
“No one stained my honor. The one that had her honor stained is Egypt. I will carry on until I restore Egypt’s rights.”
And at The Guardian confirmed that her next recourse is international law:
“I’ve decided to file an international lawsuit and it is my right as a citizen since my rights are lost here even though many military commanders admitted this happened and now they’re denying it.”
In speaking up Samira faced down the pervasive social stigma of a conservative society, not to mention the ruling military powers. She risked, and lost, an awful lot. Last week’s verdict can not be allowed to be the end of her struggle.
Badass Egyptian Women:
3. Doria Shafik