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The “New” Egypt: “Virginity Tests” for Protesters

While I’ve little time to blog today, this particular story seemed especially worthy of promotion. Amnesty International has sent the following mailing to its supporters (emphasis in original):

The Egyptian military may have just hit a disturbing, new low: at least 18 women who were arrested during a peaceful protest in Tahrir Square on March 9 said they were forced to take “virginity tests”.

Those women were threatened with charges of prostitution if they “failed” the tests. One woman, who said she was a virgin but whose test supposedly proved otherwise, was beaten and given electric shocks.

Journalist William Fisher at The Public Record rightly notes, “I know this sounds like something out of Torquemada in the 15th Century or Mengele in the 20th. But it’s neither. It’s post-Mubarak Egypt in the second decade of the 21st Century.”

Twenty-year-old Salwa Hosseini told Amnesty International that after she was arrested and taken to a military prison in Heikstep, she was made, with the other women, to take off all her clothes to be searched by a female prison guard, in a room with two open doors and a window. During the strip search, Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room and taking pictures of the naked women.

The women were then subjected to ‘virginity tests’ in a different room by a man in a white coat….

According to information received by Amnesty International, one woman who said she was a virgin but whose test supposedly proved otherwise was beaten and given electric shocks.

‘Virginity tests’ are a form of torture when they are forced or coerced.

Amnesty International is asking people to write to Hillary Clinton to get her “to use her influence to demand immediate action.” I am less sanguine that she will either a) do that, or b) really give a damn.

Those who thought the “revolution” was over don’t understand that it’s hardly begun, and can easily be derailed onto the same old paths. The military in Egypt is not to be trusted, and those who think it will reform that country are terribly mistaken. What will it take to end illusions in such ideas?

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Jeff Kaye

Jeff Kaye

Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist in private practice in San Francisco, where he works with adults and couples in psychotherapy. He worked over 10 years professionally with torture victims and asylum applicants. Active in the anti-torture movement since 2006, he has his own blog, Invictus. He has published previously at Truthout, Alternet, and The Public Record.