On 9th March 2011 Egyptian women took to the streets of Tahrir Square and marched peacefully, to celebrate International Women’s Day. Seven unmarried women were subsequently arrested, strip-searched and were forced to undergo “virginity tests” against their will. One year later, Samira Ibrahim is resorting to international law to bring the doctor who carried out these tests to justice.
After the fall of Hosni Mubarak on 11th February 2011, Egyptian women had renewed belief in their quest for gender equality.
Marching to commemorate International Women’s Day in Egypt one month later, these women could not comprehend the violence and brutality with which they were handled and ultimately abused, when they were supposed to be ‘free.’
Memories of Iran
To momentarily digress, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) who came into power in the post-Mubarak era, are a strong symbol of Egyptian military rule.
There are elements of modern Egypt which are similar to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and its aftermath. Young revolutionaries, men and women, think they are ushering in a new age after the ousting of a ‘dictator’ but male dominated religious groups and brutal military rule quickly fill the power vacuum before this new age has the opportunity to mature.
With the emergence of SCAF as a military ruling power in Egypt, there are concerns that women in Egypt may be no better off now, than they were during Mubarak’s reign.
One of the women subjected to violation last march, was Samira Ibrahim.
Samira and six other women, once arrested, were forcibly virginity tested by Dr Ahmed Adel. Each woman was taken into a private room with Dr Adel for five minutes.
When they were strip-searched by a female officer, male officers entered the room where the women were being detained and took pictures of them.
Ibrahim brought the case to court against Adel in the wake of her arrest and detention.
In December 2011, a Cairo administrative court ruled that virginity tests were in fact illegal.
As soon as this landmark ruling was issued, it was declared that Adel would face a military trial.
This month, the military court exonerated Dr Adel.
A state run by the military may increase occurrences such as this one, marking a radical shift in post-Mubarak Egypt: military rule lacks the capacity for adequate transparency, especially if legal procedure is determined by a military court.
Maj Gen Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, a member of SCAF admitted that the virginity tests had taken place.
Quick to justify the ‘virginity tests,’ anonymous military soldiers revealed the tests were conducted to avoid subsequent allegations of rape from the arrested women.
Samira believes that the future of Egyptian women is in danger with Islamist and military forces dictating in the country where Mubarak previously had.
The verdict this month has uncovered an inherent corruption within Egyptian law. The Egyptian military court is not independent. There is a lack of faith emanating from Egyptian men and women alike regarding legal procedure in Egypt.
Samira is going to fight for Dr Ahmed Adel’s conviction internationally, with the help of organisations such as Amnesty International and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
Tomorrow women of Egypt, including Samira, will march to Cairo’s High Court to celebrate Egyptian women’s day.
One of the reasons put forward to explain why Dr Adel was not convicted, was that three of the seven women who were subjected to the virginity tests last year changed their stories at the last minute. Women in Egypt need to stick together.
Pressure from Amnesty and Freedom house ensured that the military trial went ahead this month. Samira is calling for support within Egypt and internationally to find justice for herself and the women of Egypt.