Image of unknown woman beaten by Egypt’s military echoes around world

Ahdaf Soueif in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_06 Dec. 20 16.20The woman is young, and slim, and fair. She lies on her back surrounded by four soldiers, two of whom are dragging her by the arms raised above her head. She's unresisting – maybe she's fainted; we can't tell because we can't see her face. She's wearing blue jeans and trainers. But her top half is bare: we can see her torso, her tummy, her blue bra, her bare delicate arms. Surrounding this top half, forming a kind of black halo around it, is the abaya, the robe she was wearing that has been ripped off and that tells us that she was wearing a hijab.

Six years ago, when popular protests started to hit the streets of Egypt as Hosni Mubarak's gang worked at rigging the 2005 parliamentary elections, the regime hit back – not just with the traditional Central Security conscripts – but with an innovation: militias of strong, trained, thugs. They beat up men, but they grabbed women, tore their clothes off and beat them, groping them at the same time. The idea was to insinuate that females who took part in street protests wanted to be groped.

Women developed deterrent techniques: layers of light clothing, no buttons, drawstring pants double-knotted – and carried right on protesting. Many of the smaller civil initiatives that grew into the protest movement: “We See You”, “Against Corruption”, “The Streets are Ours” were women-led.

But, a symbiotic relationship springs up between behaviours. Mubarak and Omar Suleiman turn Egypt into the US's favourite location for the torture of “terror suspects” and torture becomes endemic in police stations. The regime's thugs molest women as a form of political bullying – and harassment of women in the streets rises to epidemic levels.

More here.