In response to international outcry over a photo of a female protester getting her clothing ripped off as she was dragged through the streets of Cairo, the Egyptian government has finally dropped the "they were provoking us!" act an issued an apology. The military junta in charge of the government has vowed to root out those responsible for all the lady assault and punish them. Self-regulation of a borderline totalitarian regime is a great call. That always leads to justice!
The infamous image enraged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In a statement yesterday, she condemned the violence against female protesters, saying, "Women protesters have been rounded up and subjected to horrific abuse. Journalists have been sexually assaulted and now women are being attacked, stripped and beaten in the streets." She added, "Beating women is not cultural, it's criminal and it needs to be addressed and treated as such."
In response to all this fussing about a few assaults, Egypt's Supreme Council of Armed Forces issued an apology via Facebook. SCAF's statement read that it was sorry for the "transgressions" against female protesters, and that "all legal measures" would be taken to make sure the perpetrators were brought to justice through military courts. So, the military is going to make sure the military doesn't hurt people anymore? Take that one with a grain of salt.
According to Peter Juul, a policy analyst with the Center for American Progress, this looks a lot like diplomatic kabuki. Egypt's cultural problems with women's rights extend far deeper than a group of soldiers tearing the clothes off of female protesters; rape is heartbreakingly prevalent in the country, as is Female Genital Mutilation. Back in April, female protesters who were arrested were subjected to beatings, sexual assault, and "virginity tests." In November, activist and author Mona Eltahawy was beaten and sexually assaulted after being taken into military custody.
Juul points out that in spite of SCAF's performative apology, he thinks there are encouraging signs coming from Egypt. Yesterday's march of thousands of women through the streets of Cairo shows that women there are gaining the courage to demand rights, and they have an ally in Secretary Clinton.
Of course, some in the Egyptian government, including Egypt's foreign minister Mohammed Amr, equated Clinton's call to end ladybeating with "interference" in Egypt's affairs. Interestingly, they're not as upset about US "interference" when it comes in the form of the $1.3 billion in military aid the US has pledged to Egypt. Juul doesn't think the US will resort to cutting aid to the country's military, but thinks that the government's apology may be attempting to head off any aid-cutting talk at the pass.
Not all Egyptians share Clinton's disgust over the contents of the photo, either. In fact, some of this woman's countrymen doubt the shot's authenticity and argued that it was staged, even though it was captured by a Reuters photographer. Further, even if the photo is real, some argue that she deserved it. One analyst from the Arab Center for Cyberspace Research argued that the person who took the video injected their own viewpoint into the shots by "focus(ing) on specific things and ignor(ing) others." Further, he added that the video didn't show the part where another soldier intervened and covered the woman up. What good people, those soldiers! How unfair of the photographer to focus on the part of the video where a woman is stripped naked and dragged through the streets instead of the part where that assault on her is totally negated by someone covering her up!
As pleasant as it would be to believe that the Egyptian government is serious about respecting the rights of women forever and always, this apology is likely little more than verbal appeasement.
Egypt military 'regrets transgression' against female protester [Al Arabiya English]