Muslim Women Get 'Special Treatment' in Egypt

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Muslim Women Get 'Special Treatment' in Egypt

Egyptian activists have promised ongoing online protests to press the military leadership to investigate soldiers who abused pro-democracy demonstrators, including women who were detained and forced to take ''virginity tests''.

The interim authority, formed after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February, has come in for increasing criticism from the youth movement for the slow pace of its reforms and intolerance of dissent.

The abuse of the women, which was confirmed by a senior army official this week, has caused particular anger and prompted a storm of protest on the internet.

Youth activists held an online protest yesterday and said more protests were necessary because Egypt's mainstream media trod too softly around the military.

The new rulers have shown themselves to be thin-skinned, with a military prosecutor summoning a blogger and a TV journalist after they criticised the army on a talk show. Three other journalists were also called in for questioning on Tuesday. All were released without charge.

The growing dissatisfaction with the interim government is increasingly clear. While the military council has pledged to organise elections this year and hand over to a civilian government, tens of thousands of people appeared in Tahrir Square last week to demand faster reforms.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had previously denied claims by Amnesty International that 18 women detained in March were subjected to virginity checks and threatened with prostitution charges.

But an Egyptian general told a US TV network this week that tests were conducted. ''The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,'' the general, who requested anonymity, told CNN. ''These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found … molotov cocktails and [drugs].'' He said the tests were conducted so that the women would not be able to claim that they had been sexually abused while in custody.

Amnesty condemned the general's comments and called for an investigation: ''This general's implication that only virgins can be victims of rape is a long-discredited sexist attitude and legal absurdity.''

One of the victims, Salwa Hosseini, 20, told Amnesty she and the other women were forced to remove their clothes before being strip-searched by a female guard. Male soldiers looked into the room and took pictures.

The women were also beaten and given electric shocks.

Meanwhile, Mr Mubarak and his sons, Alaa and Gamal, will face trial on August 3 on charges of ordering the killing of protesters and fraud. A judicial source said the Mubaraks had been referred to the North Cairo court to face Judge Ahmed Rifat.

Guardian News & Media

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