Thursday, December 22, 2011
What Is Happening In Egypt?
Almost one year ago, the people of Egypt rose up against rampant inequality, government corruption, and Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian government shut down the Internet and cracked down on the populace. Eventually, the Egyptian military had to intervene. After the government capitulated power, the Egyptian citizens celebrated and the ruling military promised to return the government to the people in the form of democracy.
But those actions now seem a distant memory. In recent months, conflicts between the military and other political groups have begun to appear, leading to a newer series of protests. Amongst these protests, women have been repeatedly victimized and subjected to appalling acts of violence.
In recent crackdowns, the military has killed dozens of protesters and beat a number of women, dragging them by the hair and stripping them in public. After the above photo was released, the military justified its actions against the veiled woman because she was “immoral” – releasing a video showing the woman talking about sex outside of marriage with her partner. Seriously. That was their “she deserved it” defense. The image has sparked both domestic and international outcry. Hillary Clinton expressed her outrage saying, “This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people.”
Thank goodness for Hillary Clinton having the courage to say what we all are thinking, despite the strain her remarks may have on the US relationship with Egypt. Indeed, some Egyptian officials have denounced her remarks, calling on the US to cease its interference. As Erin Ryan notes, perhaps the US should stop interfering – perhaps we should withdraw our $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt. However, in recent days, Egypt’s military offered its regret for the attacks.
I have a hard time accepting Egypt’s regret as a sincere apology. Egyptian culture has a long history of disrespecting women’s rights. This isn’t the first instance in which the military has beaten or stripped women. In some cases, the government subjected women to “virginity tests.” And rape is a rampant throughout the country. The Interior Ministry concludes that an average of 55 women are raped each day but some believe that figure is even higher. Many rape and sexual assault cases – as high as 98% in 2003 – are unreported to authorities. Egypt’s conservative society does not accept such issues being brought to the forefront because they consider them to be too private or personal. And social taboos prevent many women from seeking help.
Egypt’s “apology” is not an apology – it is politically correct. It is a child apologizing with his/her fingers crossed behind their back, knowing that they will continue to act as they have until they are caught again. A changed heart must accompany a real apology. Until the nation attempts to make social and cultural changes encouraging gender equality and women’s rights, Egypt’s heart will remain unchanged.