Egyptian women protesters “are being attacked, stripped and beaten in the streets” by security forces, a “disgrace” that dishonors the country, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday.
The top U.S. diplomat said Egypt's leaders, in the military and in its political parties, are excluding women from decision- making as the country makes its transition to civilian-led rule.
Photographs and video footage of protests yesterday showed soldiers beating and kicking a young woman in Tahrir Square, pulling her full-length veil up over her head to reveal her blue bra and bare stomach, a humiliation in a culture that prizes female modesty.
“Recent events in Egypt have been particularly shocking,” Clinton said in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington on the role of women in conflict prevention. “Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago.”
“This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people,” she said.
The clashes between troops and protesters who want Egypt's generals to hand power to civilians immediately began Dec. 16. They have left 12 dead and hundreds injured. The protesters, who have been camped outside the cabinet building for the last three weeks, also demand that trials of former officials accused of killing protesters be expedited.
The military has said it won't relinquish control until a presidential election is held by the end of June and there is a new constitution.
Clinton said marchers celebrating International Women's Day were harassed and abused and journalists have been sexually assaulted.
On a political level, “Egyptian women have been largely shut out of decision-making in the transition by both the military authorities and the major political parties,” Clinton said. “At the same time, they have been specifically targeted both by security forces and by extremists.”
“As some Egyptian politicians and commentators have themselves noted, a new democracy cannot be built on the persecution of women, nor can any stable society,” Clinton said.
The images of soldiers beating civilians and women, now widely circulated on YouTube, “should be first and foremost distressing to Egyptians,” she said.