June 27, 2019

Egyptian General admits ‘virginity checks’ carried out on female protesters

The Egyptian authorities obviously forgot to mention to the protesters that they had to be virgins to be allowed to protest in Cairo.

A senior Egyptian general has admitted that “virginity checks” were performed on some women arrested during the protests following the downfall of Hosni Mubarak’s government.

The allegations first arose in an Amnesty International report, published a few weeks after the 9th March protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Major Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or “virginity tests.”

But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

“The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” the general said. “These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs).”

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn’t later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said. “None of them were (virgins).”

This demonstration took place nearly a month after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned following mass demonstrations.

The protest on 9th March occurred in Tahrir Square and the military and police were quick to target the demonstraters. Soldiers dragged dozens of demonstrators from the square and through the gates of the Egyptian Museum.

Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser who was named in the Amnesty International report, has described to American news chanel CNN how uniformed soldiers tied her up on the museum’s grounds, forced her to the ground and slapped her, then shocked her with a stun gun while calling her a prostitute.

The treatment got worse, Hosseini said, when she and the 16 other female prisoners were taken to a military detention center in Heikstep.

There, she said, she and several of other female detainees were subjected to a “virginity test.”

“We did not agree for a male doctor to perform the test,” she said. But Hosseini said her captors forced her to comply by threatening her with more stun-gun shocks.

“I was going through a nervous breakdown at that moment,” she recalled. “There was no one standing during the test, except for a woman and the male doctor. But several soldiers were standing behind us watching the backside of the bed. I think they had them standing there as witnesses.”

The senior Egyptian general said the 149 people detained after the 9th March protest were subsequently tried in military courts, and most have been sentenced to a year in prison.

Authorities later revoked those sentences “when we discovered that some of the detainees had university degrees, so we decided to give them a second chance,” he said.

It looks like Egypt has a way to go yet before the people can protest without fear of reprisal.