May 26, 2011 AWID: Egypt: May 25, The Commemoration Of “black Wednesday”
(Cairo, May 25, 2011) The revolution of the 25th of January, 2011 was not born out of the moment, but was the result of a long struggle of all political and civil forces in Egypt. Women participated in all phases of this struggle and bore serious risks to confront the former regime and its security armory. This year, the 25th of May comes after the great revolution in which women participated to its success. Today marks the day in which women paid the price on the day of the referendum to amend article 76 of the constitution in 2005.
The 25th of May 2005 witnessed the rise of many voices of the Egyptian opposition by the announcement of a protest and criticism of what was described as – the fake change which forged the will of the people – on the so-called referendum to renew the presidential term of the former president. Young women and men and activists were at the forefront of those who gathered in front of the press syndicate and the judges club.
Despite the huge propaganda and use of all the resources of the state to support the play of the referendum, tens of young men and women worried the security forces and the ruling party to the extent that they decided to use more oppressive methods. They used a new security approach against the young women and men participating in the demonstration that caused the psychological feeling of defeat. The physical and sexual attacks targeted all people who protested or tried to protest against the fake referendum conducted by the state. All demonstrators were targeted, with a special focus on women and girls who were sexually harassed.
The militias of the National Democratic Party practiced before the eyes of all security forces the severe oppression from the very first moment of the attack on the demonstrators. The security forces – at the beginning – intentionally surrounded the demonstrators, severely pressured them while their back was against the wall, then split them – violently – into small separated groups.
Members of the security forces promptly dealt with the demonstrators in these small groups by direct orders of the officers who pushed them to cruelly beat the demonstrators and to sexually harass the women and girls. The orders of officers included verbal abuse that can provoke every free person. The security forces sought to kidnap prominent figures – of both sexes – from the demonstration, took them to the side streets to beat them, and then made them disappear in the buses of deportation, or in near police stations.
Security forces used the soldiers of the Egyptian central security forces who came out in civilian clothes, concentrated on the sexual harassment of women and girls by violently harassing their bodies, tearing their clothes, and removing the veil of veiled women, in addition to dragging them on the ground by their hairs; as for women or girls who tried to escape, they followed them and incited thugs to surround them to fulfil what they had begun. The women who could stop a taxi were forced out after they had horrified the driver to fulfil what they had begun. If they resorted to a shop or a residential building, they were surrounding it and breaking through with direct orders from the officers.
The message that the police and the former regime wanted to deliver at that time was that sexual harassment is the destiny for women who will participate in reform and requests of democracy.
It is worth mentioning that the victims of this day reached 13 female activists. Many of the private Egyptian and international media and blogs said that some thugs attacked female journalists, political activists, beat them, tore their clothes and sexually harassed them. In addition, a number of female journalists and activists, victims of what was then named “black Wednesday” reported to the general prosecutor what they had been subjected to. However, the general prosecutor then issued a decision to dismiss the investigations in the incident due to the failure of knowing the perpetrators.
At the end, the investigation was dismissed in this case due to the failure to know the perpetrator. The general prosecution ignored the witnesses, images and videos that demonstrated the attack!!
The dismissal of the investigation resulted in the statements presented by some activists to the African Commission on Human & Peoples’ Rights which is affiliated to the African Union, since 24 organizations from the civil society presented a claim with the number 323 in the year 2006 (323/2006) in the name of 4 female journalists and activists who had been subjected to attacks. The claim included charges against the Egyptian government; that it violated the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which was signed by the Egyptian government and became integral and compulsory to the Egyptian legislation in March 20, 1984. The journalists syndicate, many writers, activists and human rights organizations also condemned the incident and called for the resignation of the interior minister and for the trial of the people responsible for it.
Although these severe incidents occurred, they did not impede Egyptian women from resuming their efforts in the political work. In the revolution the Egyptian women stood side by side with Egyptian men. Their bodies bore what had been borne by men’s bodies, by the violence of the security forces of all its types beginning with the sticks, and tear gas bombs to live and rubber bullets. There were women injured and martyrs.
Women shaped human armors and stood in the popular committees. They experienced the battle of the camels, and confronted the thugs of the NDP. At that time they were not concerned about being women or men, mothers or young women, Muslims or Christians; they were just remembering that they are Egyptians.
As the acts of women were not new for them, and were not separated from their historical national role played over ages for the renaissance and liberation of their nation from different types of authoritarianism, women’s role in this popular revolution must not ignored. The price they paid as Egyptian citizen must not be omitted. It is also unacceptable in any name or under any type of guardianship, either political or social, that women are excluded on the political stage in the coming period, which is full of national challenges for all of us as Egyptians, women and men.
The achievements of the Egyptian women, which reached a minimum level of citizenship, were obtained after a long struggle for which they paid a high price. They were not granted from a ruler or a ruler’s wife, as said by people who want to forge history and cancel the Egyptian awareness. Instead, these achievements of the Egyptian women affirm that women are on their path to equality and human rights.
We sought to achieve real participation in decision making, and equal opportunities that ensure to every Egyptian female citizen and every Egyptian male citizen to carry out their duties towards their nation under a new civilian constitution that cancels all types of guardianship and distinctions and ensures the complete rights and equality for all. All we desired is empowering women, who are half of the society, to resume their role as Egyptian citizens to ensure their access to broad and comprehensive types of the meaning of democracy.
The Egyptian society as a whole and afore them the national figures and the military council are requested to support and help the victory of women’s rights as part and parcel of human rights. We also desire the removal of the obstacles to their participation in the decision making and wish that the required measures to ensure this are taken.
(There is no democracy without women’s participation, and there is no women’s participation without democracy)