Egyptian Women March Against Violence Government Claims Isn't Really Happening

This weekend, a picture of a female Tahrir Square protester having her clothes torn off while a soldier prepared to kick her renewed global concern that perhaps the new government of Egypt isn't being quite so awesome to the ladies. Today, thousands of Egyptian women took to the streets of Cairo to protest the ruling military government's rampant fuckery. And the government? They're denying that what's depicted in the now-infamous photograph is violence; according to them, it's apt response to provocation. In other words, the protesters are forcing them to tear unarmed women's clothes off. Seems legit.

The New York Times reports that today's march comes on the fifth day of a renewed swell of violence in the Middle Eastern country in the midst of its first free elections in 30 years. This round of civic unrest comes from the nagging feeling Egyptian civilians have that perhaps the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) junta that's been running things since ex-President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February isn't actually going to let them democratically decide their own fate, but rather rule with an iron fist, as sole governing bodies with the word "Supreme" in them tend to do. While the last round of protests got ugly quickly (more than 40 people died and thousands were injured), this round is characterized by its escalating public violence against women. In addition to the dubiously iconic photo, other women were photographed having their clothes torn or removed in public.

The several thousands of women who marched were flanked by male protesters, there presumably to guard them from even more violence at the hands of the Egyptian military. Many participants carried signs bearing the weekend's most famous image, their rallying cry.

Unsurprisingly, SCAF's response to the latest call for peace and free speech in the most pigheaded manner possible. In a press conference, Gen. Adel Emara dismissed claims that his soldiers were acting out of line, saying that the poor persecuted military men with guns and tear gas and night sticks and the such were being victimized by "provocateurs." A female journalist attempted to show Gen. Emara the newspaper photograph, but Emara waved it away, saying, "Yes, this scene took place, and we're investigating it. But let's look at the whole picture and see the circumstances the picture was taken in, and we will announce the complete truth." He later went on to chastise reporters for attempting to demonize the military when in reality. The implication is that the military, and not the women, were the real victims.

What could possibly be happening to justify a group of men ripping off the clothing of a woman in public and then kicking her? If unarmed civilian women are so good at forcing armed men to do things totally against their will, then why doesn't SCAF fill the ranks of its army with unarmed civilian women?

In spite of the protest march involving thousands of women who want the violence to end, the growing catalog of pictorial proof that violence against protesters— and, more specifically, violence against women— is occurring in spades, and testimony from actual female victims of the violence captured in photographs and marched against, SCAF still insists that violence is not being used against peaceful protesters, that the military is being "provoked" by enemies of the state, that their word trumps the words of thousands of women.

The denial-ridden press conference could be a funny scene if it were happening in a biting anti-war farce comedy directed by Christopher Guest. It's not funny when it's happening in real life, to real women, and the government is staring the evidence in the face and refusing to call it violence.

Mass March by Cairo Women in Protest Over Soldiers' Abuse [NYT]