Friday, February 15, 2013

Egyptian Human Rights Activist: ‘Your Support For Muslim Brotherhood Has Led to Gang Rape, Torture & Murder’


From Bahieddin Hassan’s (Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies) open letter to Barack Obama as published in Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram:

To President Barack Obama:
 "Three years ago, I had the honour of meeting you in the White House as part of a delegation of some 50 human rights defenders from around the world. I was one of three rights defenders who were asked to speak during the 40 minutes out of the 90-minute meeting during which you and your advisors were present.
When it was my turn to address those gathered, I urged you to consider the gulf between the content of your speech to the Arab and Islamic worlds in Cairo in June 2009 and the reality of American policy in February 2010, noting that they seemed separated by much more than simply a few months. In Cairo, you promised to stand by peoples of the region and engage with them, but eight months later your administration's policy was to turn its back on the people and work instead with local regimes.  
Rape, which is recognized internationally as a weapon of war, is now used in Egypt as a political weapon to deter opponents from gathering in Tahrir Square. According to multiple testimonies in recent weeks, the assaults differ radically from the forms of sexual harassment prevalent in Egypt in previous years. According to victims and video footage, female protesters are separated from the demonstrations, taken to other locations, and raped, in what appear to be organised, previously planned attacks. The faces of the assailants show no signs of emotion or sexual excitement. The objective appears to be to break the political will of the victims through profound degradation, whether they are raped, sexually mauled, or stripped entirely of their clothes — if they manage to escape the mob. In more than one case, a knife was used to penetrate the victims’ vaginas, and multiple women underwent hysterectomies after being assaulted. In this context, we can understand the attempted rape of a 70-year-old woman known for her political affiliation as well as the sexual assault of a number of men.
Mr President, when I spoke with you in 2010, I asked why the US administration condemns repressive practices in Iran while remaining silent when Arab regimes engage in the same violations. Over recent months, statements by your administration have similarly failed to address violations and have even blamed protesters and victims for violence committed in the context of demonstrations. Indeed, the stances of your administration have given political cover to the current authoritarian regime in Egypt and allowed it to fearlessly implement undemocratic policies and commit numerous acts of repression.
Is it a coincidence that the statements issued by your administration reflect the same political rhetoric used by the new authoritarian regime in Egypt? But when these statements come from the world’s superpower — the one most able to have a positive or negative impact on policies in Egypt and the region, not to mention the biggest donor and material supporter of the Egyptian regime for the past 35 years — they become lethal ammunition, offering political protection to perpetrators of murder, torture, brutality and rape.
Please, ask officials with your administration to stop talking about Egypt for a while, at least until we can bury our dead, comfort their grieving families, treat the victims of rape and torture, find the disappeared, and read the wills of a new generation of young people who plan not for their weddings but for their funerals."

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