”Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” ; ‘The girls of Egypt are here; A reverse gear run up; start of the fall: The Human Rescue Team

”Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” ; ‘The girls of Egypt are here

‘The girls of Egypt are here’: women defy military

David Kirkpatrick
December 22, 2011 – 3:00AM

THOUSANDS of women have marched through Cairo to call for the end of
military rule in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of
soldiers beating, stripping and kicking female demonstrators in the
capital’s Tahrir Square.

”Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” they chanted.
”Where is the field marshal?” they demanded, referring to Mohamed
Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council. ”The girls
of Egypt are here.”

The event may have been the biggest women’s demonstration in Egypt’s
history, and the most significant since a 1919 march against British
rule. The scale was stunning, and unexpected in this strictly
patriarchal society.

Previous efforts to organise women’s events in Tahrir Square this year
have either fizzled or, in at least one case, ended in the physical
harassment of the few women who did turn out.

Just two hours before the women massed, a coalition of liberal and
rights groups unveiled a plan to try to break state media’s grip on
public opinion by holding screenings around the country of video
showing recent military abuses.

Soldiers have been recorded beating prone demonstrators with clubs and
firing rifles and handguns as they chased protesters. More than one
version showed soldiers stripping female demonstrators.

In the most famous of those, half a dozen soldiers beating a woman
with batons rip away her cloak to reveal her blue bra, before one
plants his boot on her chest. Fearful of the stigma that would come
with her public humiliation, the woman has declined to step forward
publicly, but the images of ”blue bra girl” have circulated over the
internet and been shown by TV stations around the world.

When activists called for the march on Twitter, they used the tag
”BlueBra” – but few could have expected the magnitude of the
response. The women’s chants were evidently heard at military
headquarters as well. On Tuesday evening, Egyptian time, the military
council offered an abrupt apology.

”The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses its utmost sorrow
for the great women of Egypt, for the violations that took place
during the recent events,” the council said. ”It stresses its great
appreciation for the women of Egypt and for their right to protest and
to actively, positively participate in political life on the path of
democratic transition.”

Although no one in the military has been publicly investigated or
charged with any misconduct, the statement asserted that the council
had already taken ”all the legal actions to hold whoever is
responsible accountable”.

The military has tried to paint protesters as paid thugs and
conspirators. But as the women demanded an end to military rule, they
seemed to signal renewed solidarity among Egyptians. In recent days,
activists and politicians have increasingly called for presidential
elections no later than the end of January.

”Even those not sympathetic to protesters can’t deny the power of an
image of a defenceless woman being attacked,” said Heba Morayef, an
Egypt researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The march followed comments on Monday by the military council’s
Major-General Adel Emara, who called soldiers who shot and beat
protesters heroes, praising their ”restraint”. At least 13
protesters have died since Friday and 800 people have been injured.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCIES

This story was found at:
http://www.smh.com.au/world/the-girls-of-egypt-are-here-women-defy-military-20111221-1p5ol.html

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