Female activists detained during the Egyptian army’s evacuation of Tahrir Square on March 9 told human-rights organizations that they were beaten, tortured and forced to take virginity tests while in military custody.
Salwa Hosseini, 20, who was taken by soldiers to a military prison on the outskirts of Cairo, told Amnesty International that she and fellow female detainees were strip searched, photographed while naked and subjected to electric shocks. Hossein added that female guards warned the captured women they would be charged with prostitution if they didn’t take medical tests to prove they were virgins.
“Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women,” Amnesty International said. “The Egyptian authorities must halt the shocking and degrading treatment of women protesters. Women fully participated in bringing change in Egypt and should not be punished for their activism.”
The human-rights group alleges the tests were carried out by a male doctor and that one woman, who claimed to be virgin while tests proved otherwise, was beaten and given electric shocks.
“The army officers tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening, with the implicit threat that the women could be at further risk of harm if the photographs were made public,” Amnesty’s statement added.
Journalist Rasha Azeb, another female activist detained in Tahrir Square, said she was insulted, handcuffed and beaten.
El Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence announced that testimonies given to them by other female captives echoed those of Azeb and Hosseini. Following the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, several hundred protesters decided to prolong their demonstrations in the square until what they called “all the Jan. 25 revolutionary demands” were fulfilled by the ruling Supreme Military Council.
On March 9, military forces intervened to clear the square in an incident that saw at least 100 activists detained, including more than 17 women. Many of those captured were initially taken to the nearby Egyptian museum, where they claimed to have been tortured and beaten by soldiers.
All female detainees were released on March 13 after appearing in front of a military court. A few, including Hosseini, were convicted of disorderly conduct, destroying private and public property, obstructing traffic and carrying weapons. Hosseini was sentenced to a suspended one-year imprisonment.