Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers recently went on a sexual assault and rape spree in Egypt as a way of “getting even” with those women who dared to celebrate the presidential victory of Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi—the former army chief who overthrew Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt.
On June 8, when tens of thousands of Egyptians congregated in Tahrir Square to celebrate Sisi’s inauguration, dozens of women were sexually assaulted and many more harassed. According to a statement later released by the Ministry of Interior, seven men between the ages of 15 and 49 were arrested for sexually assaulting “a number of women.”
One 19-year-old female student was especially brutalized—and videotaped as she was stripped naked and sexually assaulted by a throng of men. (I saw the graphic video on YouTube, though it has since been removed; a much less graphic clip of the initial assault appears here.) A gun-waving police officer eventually managed to rescue the woman from her ordeal, though after sustaining injuries himself.
Sexually harassing or raping those supportive of Sisi by way of “retribution” is not uncommon in Egypt. Earlier, a six-year-old boy was raped by a Muslim Brotherhood member who was “angered” at the child for singing praises to Sisi. He lured the boy into a shed, locked the doors, and proceeded to rape him, while saying, “You’re always holding pictures of this Sisi and singing his praises. Come, I’ll humiliate and break you—and your Sisi.”
Although Western media never specify who is behind these sexual assaults—often citing “the mob”—Hala Sarhan, a popular TV host in Egypt alluded to the ultimate source that legitimizes sexual harassment and rape in Egypt, namely, Islamist preachers and leaders:
What was said to these people [rapists] to brainwash them into think that such violations on the person and body of this young girl [the aforementioned rape victim] were permissible? … I’ll tell you. The one in parliament who said this, is the same as the man who did that… And the one who told that girl that she is an infidel, is the same as the one in parliament who said that it’s permissible to marry a 9-year-old girl [based on the prophet of Islam’s example when he married the girl-child Aisha]. The ones who in the mosques told him that they [women] are in the pits of hell and the lures of Satan—adulteresses, that Satan lives in their bodies… This is what they tell them in the mosques! And they’re so upset now [Islamist preachers] because they can no longer continue to preach like this in the mosques! We thank you minister of religious endowments for stopping this mockery! [The new Egyptian government has cracked down on radical preachers.] Before [under Morsi], every guy that yelled and stomped got himself a pulpit to preach such thoughts into the minds of the youth—and then they went out thinking they are doing jihad. You see, they have this thing in their mind that says “If we curse or attack an infidel, that is jihad”…. Concerning the previous cases of sexual harassment, they [Islamist authorities] told people, “Why did she [any violated woman] leave her house in the first place? She deserves what she got!” They told them, “Your sister needs to be circumcised”; told them, “In the house, beat her and discipline her, break her bones; and if she refuses to have sex with you, saying she’s tired or sick, curse her with the angels till the sun rises.” We allowed these people to fill their minds with such ideas!
Such honesty is reminiscent of an Egyptian op-ed that appeared after a young Coptic woman was murdered by a pro-Brotherhood mob because they identified her as a Christian:
Those who killed the young and vulnerable Mary Sameh George, for hanging a cross in her car, are not criminals, but rather wretches who follow those who legalized for them murder, lynching, dismemberment, and the stripping bare of young Christian girls—without every saying “kill.” [Islamic cleric] Yassir Burhami and his colleagues who announce their hate for Christians throughout satellite channels and in mosques—claiming that hatred of Christians is synonymous with love for Allah—they are the true killers who need to be tried and prosecuted.
At any rate, using sexual harassment and rape to force people to comply with Islamist agendas has a long history, especially in Egypt. In 2011, during the “Arab Spring,” when the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists were released from prison, legitimized and eventually rose to power, sexual harassment skyrocketed, as one graph showed. Moreover, UN research done in 2013, when Morsi was president, suggested that 99.3% of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment.
Indeed, in February, 2013, hundreds of Egyptian women took to the streets of Tahrir Square to protest this nonstop harassment. They held slogans like “Silence is unacceptable, my anger will be heard,” and “A safe square for all; Down with sexual harassment.” “Marchers also shouted chants against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood group from which he hails,” wrote Al Ahram Online.
The response was more sexual harassment and rapes. One woman was gang-raped for approximately 20 minutes and nearly died. And as Hala Sarhan pointed out, elements from the then Islamist-heavy government under Morsi blamed the women themselves, saying that:
women taking part in protests bear the responsibility of being sexually harassed, [and] describing what happens in some demonstrators’ tents as “prostitution.” Major General Adel Afify, member of the committee representing the Salafi Asala Party, criticized female protesters, saying that they “know they are among thugs. They should protect themselves before requesting that the Interior Ministry does so. By getting herself involved in such circumstances, the woman has 100 percent responsibility.”
Likewise, popular Salafi preacher Abu Islam sarcastically blamed the victims:
“They tell you women are a red line. They tell you that naked women [i.e., not wearing veils or hijabs]—who are going to Tahrir Square because they want to be raped—are a red line! And they ask Morsi and the Brotherhood to leave power!” Abu Islam added that these women activists are going to Tahrir Square not to protest but to be sexually abused because they had wanted to be raped. “They have no shame, no fear and not even feminism. Practice your feminism, sheikha! It is a legitimate right for you to be a woman,” he said. “And by the way, 90 percent of them are crusaders [i.e. Christian Copts] and the remaining 10 percent are widows who have no one to control them. You see women talking like monsters,” he added.
The only silver lining in this cloud of Islamist rape that hovers over Egypt is that the differences between Morsi and his Brotherhood government, and Sisi and the post-Brotherhood government, are already apparent. In response to the endemic sexual harassment in Egypt, the new government passed a law criminalizing all forms of sexual harassment… A new article, which has been issued into power, adds a harsh punishment to those found guilty of unwanted sexual contact…. Other amended laws, under article 306, declare that those found guilty of verbal sexual harassment in a private or public place will be sentenced to a minimum of six months in prison and fined no less than EGP 3,000 ($US 420).
When I recently asked some analyst colleagues in Egypt if Morsi ever took any such measures against sexual harassment, the quip I received most was along the lines of “Take measures? He was the one ordering sexual harassment against his female critics.”
Still, and in keeping with Western MSM journalism, Sisi, who at least appears to be trying to take some measures against sexual harassment, is now being portrayed by the Guardian in a cynical light—while Morsi who did nothing and whose Islamist allies were responsible for inciting violence against women got a free pass—just like the New York Times recently tried to blame Sisi for the plight of Egypt’s religious minorities, without mentioning that it was often Morsi and the Islamists who put them there in the first place.