State-Sanctioned Oppression via Torture in Egypt

***Trigger Warning***: The following content contains talk of rape and torture.

Street art depicting Samira Ibrahim, the iconic face of forced virginity tests under Morsi.

From the Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights:

The faces have changed, but the system is the same. Oppressive. Authoritarian. Dictatorial. Basing its survival on a security structure of brutality that knows no limits. Terror is its strategy, and torture its most terrible weapon: from beatings, to hanging from the hands and feet,  to the use of electricity, and planned sexual assault.  Torture is widespread and it happens in many different settings: in police stations, prison cells, on the street, and even, on occasion, in Egypt’s “House of Justice”, the High Court.

After a revolution that began as a wave of anger against the brutality of the Ministry of Interior on National Police Day, and ended with the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has a “civilian” president, Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood.  While the Muslim Brotherhood pays lip-service to religious notions of morality, they are in fact continuing the legacy of the systematic use of torture as a weapon of the Egyptian state, much like the military junta of the SCAF who preceded them in the eighteen months immediately following the fall of Mubarak.  The result of this unofficial state policy, is the death and terrible injury of an unknown number of Egyptians in police stations and prisons across the country.

From Mubarak to the military junta and now the Muslim Brotherhood, torture, and in particular sexual torture, has been a constant threat to Egyptian citizens.  There are several examples of this, from the case of Emad El Kabir under Mubarak’s regime, to Ahmed Rashad under the military junta of the SCAF and the case of Ayman Mehanna under the rule of the Brotherhood.  From the sexual assault of women protesters and journalists under Mubarak in 2005, to SCAF’s use of so-called “virginity testing” on detained activists in March 2011,  to the more recent organized sexual assault on Yasmin El Baramawy and others in places of protest under the Brotherhood, organized sexual torture continues to be used by the state as a weapon against its opponents.

The aim of this sexual torture is not to extract confessions or information, but to humiliate, terrorize and silence voices of dissent.  Sexual torture does not discriminate between men and women, the old or the young.  It happens in many places, both inside and outside the walls of the prisons and police cells of the country.  Sexual torture has even reached the building of the High Court itself, where Ahmed Taha was raped only meters away from the judges that were supposed to protect his rights.

The video “Sexual Torture is systematic: from Mubarak and SCAF to the Muslim Brotherhood” brings together testimonies of some of the survivors of sexual torture who refuse to be silenced by their torturers.  Who have chosen to overcome humiliation in order to testify against the cowardice and criminality of the people who run the country. This video is an expression of our unconditional solidarity with all survivors of torture and sexual torture.  It signals the launch of a new media campaign against sexual torture in our prisons, police stations and streets,

And demands that we remain true to a revolution which demanded “human dignity” and “justice” in the face of state brutality.

El Nadim Center

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights


A Note on Patriarchy in the Middle East and Imperialist Feminism

Of course there is misogyny in the Middle East.

Of course there is oppressive patriarchy in the Middle East

…of course there is also patriarchy in America and in Canada, in Britain and in Italy.

Point me to the place with no patriarchy and I’ll be there in five minutes.

But Middle Easterners (a very diverse group who are bunched together under this blanket term) deserve, just like people in the ‘West’ deserve, just like ‘Western’ women deserve, to negotiate notions of gender on their own terms.

How do you expect Middle Eastern women to gradually dismantle oppressive gendered systems, to weed out the patriarchy – as everyone everywhere has to – when we in the ‘West’ often don’t even allow them to have the right to life? When we play video games with real weapons that spell death for them and their children?

It is not our deadly ‘benevolence’ that is admirable, but the fact that women in the ‘Greater Middle East’ are still fighting, and will always fight, and have undying strength, in spite of us.

It was honestly so much easier back when I only had to explain I wasn’t a nun. Whereas now I have to explain how Im not a terrorist. #Islam— Assia Amry(@Libyan4life) May 22, 2013

The people who …

The people who we call intellectuals are no different from anyone else, except that they have particular privilege. They’re mostly well-off, they have training, they have resources. As privilege increases, responsibility increases. And if somebody’s working 50 hours a day to put food on the table and never got through high school and so on, their opportunities are less than the people who are called intellectuals. That doesn’t mean that they’re any less intellectual. In fact, some of the best educated people I have known never got past fourth grade. But they have fewer opportunities, and opportunity confers responsibility.

– Noam Chomsky

Emphasis (bold) added.

Source: Science in the Dock: Discussion with Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Krauss & Sean M. Carroll