Tahrir Sq. Stormed; Virginity Tests

March 9, 2011 . By

Protesters maintaining camps in Tahrir Square reported torture and abuse following a crackdown by security forces today. Witnesses’ testimonies to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the media describe how “hundreds of men in civilian clothes, armed with metal pipes, wooden sticks, and paving stones, entered Tahrir Square…and began attacking protesters there.” Other witnesses recounted to HRW that soldiers stood by and watched as “gangs in street clothes seized and beat demonstrators.” Reportedly, the soldiers only intervened to arrest demonstrators and take down tents. Additionally, further statements made by witnesses revealed that the attackers took the demonstrators to the nearby Egyptian Museum, where “soldiers, military police and men in civilian clothes detained and physically abused them.” Various videos uploaded from the day largely corroborate these accounts, as they show protesters chased out of the Square and men with sticks and pipes taking down tents; the role played by uniformed soldiers, however, is not clear from the videos. Regarding their detention at the Egyptian Museum, witnesses recounted being physically tortured with “…wooden sticks, rods, electric cables, and pipes.” HRW learned that 173 men and 17 women were arrested on this day and were subsequently held in military prisons.

Following the detention of protestors from Tahrir Square on March 9, Human Rights Watch interviewed two of the seventeen women detained who stated that they were subjected to virginity tests performed by a military doctor. The military had initially denied that it subjected the women to virginity tests, and the military doctor accused of performing them was acquitted in a military court despite the accusations of the seventeen women. Only at the end of May 2011 did an Egyptian general  admit to reporters that the virginity tests did, in fact, take place. The unnamed general stated that the main purpose behind the “virginity checks” was to preclude claims that soldiers “sexually assaulted or raped [the female detainees by proving] that [the women] were not virgins in the first place.” The general added that “[none] of them were [virgins].”