Court ruling on army virginity tests against female protesters expected Tuesday
State Council’s Administrative Court verdict to decide on Tuesday whether ruling military council violated human rights of female protesters by conducting virginity tests in March
Ahram Online, Yasmine Fathi, Monday 26 Dec 2011
A court ruling in protester Samira Ibrahim’s case against the ruling military council (SCAF) for subjecting her to virginity tests in March is expected on Tuesday.
The ruling will be announced by the State Council’s Administrative Court at 9am.
The court was initially expected to issue a verdict in the case on 29 November, but the ruling was postponed.
Ibrahim, 25, was among seven female protesters who claimed to have been subject to virginity tests after being arrested on 9 March when army personnel attempted to disperse a sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Ibrahim is the only one of the seven women to lodge a lawsuit against the military for the incident.
Two separate cases were filed on Ibrahim’s behalf by lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, the Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The first case challenges the alleged decision to conduct the virginity tests, while the second challenges the referral of the case to a military court.
Ibrahim, along with 20 other women and 174 men, was taken to the grounds of the nearby Egyptian Museum where they were allegedly tortured. Several were released, but the rest were taken to Cairo’s notorious C28 military prosecution facility where they were detained. It was here that Ibrahim and the other women say they were subject to virginity tests.
Ibrahim told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that two officers had entered the prison cell in which the women were detained and asked them which of them were married. The officers then informed them that they would be subject to virginity tests to confirm that they were not lying, she said.
“They took us out one by one. When it was my turn, they took me to a bed in a passageway in front of the cell. There were lots of soldiers around and they could see me,” Ibrahim told HRW. “I asked if the soldiers could move away and the officer escorting me tased me. A woman prison guard in plainclothes stood at my head and then a man in military uniform examined me with his hand for several minutes. It was painful. He took his time. It was clear he was doing it on purpose to humiliate me.”
Ibrahim also gave a full account of the incident in a video posted on YouTube. In the video, Ibrahim, originally from the Sohag governorate, said that she had come to Cairo to participate in the 25 January uprising. She was arrested by Mubarak’s security forces and released. She was then detained again on 9 March when she took part in the Tahrir Square sit-in.
According to her account, she was taken along with other protesters to the Egyptian Museum. When she arrived at the premises, she was greeted by an officer she didn’t know. “He said, ‘Hello Samira, I was waiting for you’,” Ibrahim recalled. “The first thing he did was electrocute me in my stomach.”
Ibrahim and the other women were accused of belonging to a prostitution ring and allegedly tortured. “They splashed us with water, electrocuted us and insulted us,” she said.
The group was then taken to the C28 military facility where they were photographed holding empty Molotov cocktails, before being allegedly tortured through the night. The next day, Ibrahim was taken to a room with a big window, where men of different military ranks were standing. She was then asked to take her clothes off.
“I thought they would search me like they do in the army, so I took my jacket off,” Ibrahim said. “But they told me to take all my clothes off.”
Ibrahim requested that they close the window, but says she was beaten for asking. “I took my clothes off while the military personnel laughed and winked at each other,” she said. “I wanted to die.”
She was then told to lie down in order to be inspected by a man dressed in Khaki clothes. The inspection took a long time, Ibrahim said. "If he was a doctor, why did he need five minutes?” she asked. “They were trying to humiliate us so that we would never ask for our rights again or go to protests again.”
Ibrahim was later tried in a military court and given a one-year suspended sentence. She was released a few weeks later.
Ibrahim also says that, since having made the decision to file her lawsuit, she has received several threatening phone calls from an anonymous source. “I received phone calls saying, ‘Give up this case or you’ll pay with your life’,” she said.
Although the military initially denied having conducted the tests, an army general admitted in May that the incident had in fact taken place. Speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity, the general defended the practice.
"We didn't want them to claim that we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove they weren't virgins in the first place," he said. "The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine."
"These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, where we had found them in possession of Molotov cocktails and drugs,” he told CNN.