Activists commemorate eighth anniversary of 'Black Wednesday'

Ahram Online , Saturday 25 May 2013

Activists remember 'Black Wednesday,' when four women were sexually assaulted by policemen when protesting Hosni Mubarak's constitutional amendments that strengthened his position in power

Black Wednesday
Women chant in symbolic demonstration remembering sexual assault by police in anti-Mubarak protest in 2005 (Photo:Mai Shaheen)

Dozens of activists gathered at the Press Syndicate Saturday where eight years earlier four women, including journalists, were beaten, sexually assaulted and had their clothes ripped off by plain-clothed policemen during a protest calling for a boycott of a referendum called by former president Hosni Mubarak on amendments made to the constitution.

“On the eighth anniversary of Black Wednesday, we have managed to win a ruling from the African Commission for Human Rights deeming the Egyptian government [culpable] and demanding it reopens the cases of the four women who were assaulted” Hanan El-Badawy of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) told Ahram Online.

EIPR lawyers were able to win the case at the African Commission after the case was withheld by former Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud in December 2005. The four women, Nawal Ali, Iman Taha, Abeer El-Askary and Shaimaa Abu El-Kheir, now have a chance to hold accountable those who assaulted them, according to El-Badawy.

“The movement against sexual harassment has also grown much stronger over the past eight years,” said El-Badawy, which makes her more optimistic that the case will again get the attention it deserves.

Increasing sexual harassment is becoming a social concern in Egyptian society. Initiatives to fight sexual harrassment have also proliferated.

The use of sexual assault in politics has also been of concern, with Black Wednesday, which occured 25 May 2005, being the first noticable incident.

The largest demonstration protesting security violence against women took place in December 2011. More than 10,000 women marched against military violence after a young woman was seen on camera dragged, stripped naked and brutally beaten by military soldiers in Tahrir Square.

In addition to EIPR, other groups calling for the Saturday commemoration included Opantish (Operation Sexual Harassment), formed in 2012 to fight spreading sexual harassment during mass demonstrations, and Harassmap, formed in 2005 to detect and map incidences of sexual assault against women in Egypt.

“Remember 2005 ... Our demands remain the same, calling for justice and freedom,” chanted demonstrators Saturday.

“We asked for bread, freedom and social justice, and we got a terrorist organisation instead!” and “Down with Morsi Mubarak ... There are still one million Mubaraks!” chanted demonstrators who condemned the Muslim Brotherhood — part of the opposition in 2005 and now seen as ruling via President Mohamed Morsi who hails from their ranks.

The banner carried in the demonstration also showed pictures of women activists assaulted under rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and under Morsi, and read "You beat us, dragged us, sexually assaulted us and raped us ... Our struggle continues and the revolution will succeed with our (women's) efforts."

A few streets away, another demonstration of hundreds took place starting from 6th of October Bridge and heading towards the General Prosecutor's Office, protesting the continuing detention and arrest of opposition activists.

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