12 December 2012

Egypt: The President, His Group, and the Government Must Cease Their Policy of Targeting Female Activists and Excluding Women From the Public Sphere Repetition of Black Wednesday Events With Different Players and Offenders

press release

The undersigned feminist and human rights organizations express deep concern due to the escalation of state policies that reinforce the state of impunity and which refrain from protecting citizens and securing peaceful assemblies. The organizations also condemn the perpetuation of the approach of groups that support the regime in targeting female activists and excluding women from the public sphere through direct incitement and aggression.

The attacks that took place in the vicinity of Itihadeya Palace (the presidential palace) in Heliopolis district on Wednesday, 5 December 2012, brought to mind the events of Black Wednesday, 25 May 2005, which unfolded during similar situations and complicity. The events of Black Tuesday, like those of Itihadeya, also took place during a national referendum on constitutional articles when thugs belonging to the, now dissolved, National Democratic Party were deployed to beat protestors, with the help of police forces, in front of the Press Syndicate, and sexually assaulting female protestors and journalists.

The undersigned organizations ascertain that an array of evidence point to the responsibility of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which president Mohammed Morsi belongs to, in motivating its supporters through statements that contextually and literally incited hatred against peaceful protesters and promoted the use of violence against them. The violence resulted in the injury of 748 protesters and the death of 10, according to Ministry of Health. Amongst the aforementioned statements of Party leaders is that of Essam El-Erian, vice-chairman of the FJP, who announced in the night of 5 December 2012, that: "the president will not back down and if the state structures are weakened by the injuries of the previous period, then the people can force its will and protect the legitimacy [of the president]".

It is noteworthy to shed light on the violence used on December 5 2012, seeing that it represented a continuation of the policy of attacking women with physical and sexual violence by non-state actors supportive of the President. The latter is a policy they embarked upon since January 31 2012, dubbed 'Determination Tuesday', in the wake of marches to parliament that protested continuation of the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The supporters of the FJP and the Muslim Brotherhood resorted to creating a human shield to prevent protesters from approaching the Parliament, clashed with the marches, and attacked female protesters. The attack passed without accountability, in a clear sign of the perpetuation of the state of impunity enjoyed by the ruling majority and their immunity from accountability and the application of the law.

The trend of targeting female activists, to punish them for participating in the public sphere and to exclude them from political life, becomes evident through the testimonies given by female activists. One such testimony was given by Ola Shahba, who recounted in a talk show, the way in which she was attacked and dragged through the streets by supporters of the president. In the same talk show, Lina Megahed also spoke of the details of the attack she witnessed. The details they recounted speak of a manner of treating WHRDs that does not differ from the ways in which security officers, whether civilian or military, dealt with WHRDs.

It becomes clear through the statements of government officials the trend taken by the state to abandon its responsibility in protecting citizens, generally, and protecting peaceful assemblies specifically. In 4 December, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil stated that protesters at Itihadeya Palace are responsible for "protecting themselves". In the same vein was a previous statement made by Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali, who announced, during the protests that took place on 12 October that it is best that security officers stay away from the scene for the interest of the protests.

It is noteworthy that since President Morsi came to power on 30 June 2012, he has failed to deal with the demands and issues pertaining to rights, freedoms, and justice over a span of more than five months without taking any positive steps. With the continuation of his failure and that of his government, this regime is losing its legitimacy, especially with every drop of blood shed by Egyptian citizens and peaceful protesters. We also ascertain that the use of female voices from the FJP to speak about the peaceful nature of the dispute is only to be considered as a tool to resuscitate the state's understanding of women's rights and the ruling party's support for that understanding, and the attempt to pass a constitution that undermines women's rights and treats them as second-class citizens, which we utterly refuse.

Signing Organizations:

Nazra for Feminist Studies.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence.

New Woman Foundation.

Women and Memory Forum

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