Changing Egypt: Nine Men Convicted of Sexual Assaults

anti-sexual harassment anti-police failures demo, press syndicate photo by hossam el- amalawy

anti-sexual harassment anti-police failures demo, press syndicate photo by hossam el- amalawy

CAIRO, Egypt — A Thomson Reuters Foundation survey last year showed that Egypt has been the worst Arab country for women. A swell of gang rapes, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, and other crimes against women have been on the rise since the Arab Spring.

In President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s continued efforts to combat the high incidence of sexual assaults in Egypt, Wednesday an Egyptian judge convicted nine men of committing sexual assaults. The men, ages 16-49, received extensive sentences ranging from 20-years to life in prison, reported the state-run newspaper al-Ahram.

The Guardian reports that 250 sexual assaults have been documented since the Tahrir riots in 2011, for the first time they resulted in a police investigation and the president visiting with a victim. The arrests of the men were made in response to the country’s new law that more thoroughly defined sexual assault and imposed stricter penalties. As some of the most severe sexual assault sentences the country has seen, it shows the country’s dedication to cracking down on the crime.

Seven of the nine men have been sentenced to life in prison. In addition to sexual assault they were all charged with and of attempted rape, attempted murder and torture, according to Reuters. They also reported that these are the longest sentences for sexual assaults that Egypt has since President Sisi's campaign to criminalize sexual assaults.

As is customary in Egyptian courts, the accused men stood in cages while the verdicts were read to them. Reuters reported that when the verdicts were delivered the convicted men shouted "injustice" as their relatives supposedly attacked journalists. It was also said that a woman involved in one of the case began to cry out of relief upon hearing the verdicts.

Some question if the sentencing was too harsh for the crime. The 16-year-old defendant received a 20-year prison sentence and a 19-year-old defendant received two 20-year terms of imprisonment. A prominent Egyptian activist and lawyer Gamal Eid told Reuters, “This ruling gives a strong message to all harassers that their actions are no longer tolerated or accepted ... But the ruling on the teenagers was a bit harsh and could have been reduced.” But, Nashaat Agha, a lawyer for one of the victims defended the rulings saying, “This verdict is pure justice and the least that those people can get for the crimes they committed.”

The majority of the assaults happened in June during street celebrations of the inauguration of President Sisi. Most other reported assaults also happened at mass celebrations. One of the men sentenced to life received separate charges of attacking women. He assaulted women at only a celebration for the inauguration of President Sisi, and also at a celebration for the anniversary of the overthrow of despotic president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. With the upcoming celebrations for the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, it will test if these convictions can deter sexual assaults.

However, legislating against sexual assaults has yet to transform the public perception of the crime. Dalia Abd el-Hameed, a co-founder of Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, a movement that combats gang sexual assaults believes that the social view of sexual assaults is most important saying to The New York Times, "The most important thing is the social component," she said. "If something is criminalized by law, but society accepts it, it will continue happening."

The government is taking special action to change people's attitude towards sexual assault in addition to the newly adopted laws. It was reported by The Guardian that officials proposed rewarding screenwriters who produce "female-friendly television shows". Also, they reported that a female television presenter was suspended after she mockingly laughed at Tahrir victims when they were brought up by her co-presenter. She defended the attackers saying they were just "happy", according to Reuters.

That being said, the governmental action being taken against sexual offenders in Egypt is confronting their overlooked sexual assault issue. El-Hameed told The New York Times she believed that the sentences are a “good step to end the state of impunity that perpetrators enjoyed.”

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

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Woman Stripped Naked, Beaten by Mob in Tahrir Square

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 07:45 p.m. DST, 11 June 2014

"حسنا" Photo by: Andrea Volpini

CAIRO, Egypt -- The inauguration of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday, 8 June, was a cause for celebration and excitement throughout much of Egypt. But hours after the commencement of al-Sisi's presidency, the festivities turned violent. Several women were sexually assaulted and battered in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo.

Since Sunday, nine men have been arrested in connection to the string of assaults. The mob targeted at least five women, surrounding and sexually assaulting them. The torture proved extremely serious; four of the women were transported to the hospital after the vicious attacks.

The violent crowd of men surrounded a range of women, including one pregnant Egyptian, and a mother who had been enjoying the Tahrir Square scene with her daughter before the mob encircled and violated her.

The criminals moved through the square with relative impunity, stripping one woman completely naked and lacerating her. The attack went on far too long before police were able to separate her from the mob. According to reports, the security officers threatened to discharge their weapons, but no shots were fired.

Today, 11 June, women responded to the series of attacks that followed Sunday's inauguration, gathering in Tahrir Square as a statement of solidarity and resilience. Sexual assault has become commonplace in Tahrir Square, especially during the massive protests in 2011 and 2013 that saw President Mubarak and President Morsi removed from office. Women who demonstrated during this pivotal political time were often silenced through sexual assault, which at the time was not a punishable crime in Egypt.

A study published by the United Nations finds that 9 out of 10 Egyptian women have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted or raped.

Thursday of last week, 5 June, new legislation was implemented by the provisional government to protect women from sexual assault, and hold perpetrators responsible for the first time in Egyptian history. Advocates of the measure hope that it will curtail the growing problem.

Tahrir Square has become very much a symbol of Egyptian liberty and self-determination, as men and women took to Tahrir Square during instrumental demonstrations in 2011 and 2013, to speak out against governments that did not represent their best interest.

It is my hope that the continuing protests, aimed at promoting gender equality and safeguards for Egypt's women, will be as revolutionary as the demonstrations for political reform in 2011 and 2013.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

What the Election of Sisi Means for Egypt

Abdul Fattah el-Sisi

Abdul Fattah el-Sisi

CAIRO, Egypt—In a landslide victory, former military chief Abdul Fattah el-Sisi won the 2014 presidential election in Egypt on Thursday. However, his win is sparking concern for Egyptians who question what will become of the country by reinstating military rule.

El-Sisi resigned from his position as the Egyptian military chief earlier this year in order to receive a presidential bid. The state media says that the polls showed Sisi won with ninety-three percent of the vote. Ahram Online reported a victory message was posted on Sisi’s official campaign Facebook page read, "The nation has put itself, with its great people's will, on the beginning of the right track and has stepped firmly and trustingly ... towards the future they've chosen."

The overwhelming support for Sisi in the polls does not necessarily reflect the country’s sentiments, however. It was predicted that there would be a voter turnout of only forty-six percent. Presidential Elections Commission member Tarek Shebi assessed the final voter turnout at forty-eight percent, according to Ahram Online.

Such low numbers of voter turnout, coupled with the high support for Sisi create skepticism for the legitimacy of the election.  It was reported by CNN that officials even added an extra day to vote, Wednesday, to promote voting, but the attempt proved fruitless. This election did not top the 2012 elections with almost fifty-two percent voter turnout, which does not help Sisi prove his legitimacy.

In addition to the skeptical numbers, the election was plagued with accusations of misconduct. The only opposition, Hamdeen Sabahi claims that his campaign representatives were arrested and attacked, according to CNN. Also, they said that Sisi’s campaign representatives were illegally allowed inside polling places. Allegations of forgery were also made.

The criticism of voter fraud and small voter turnout could be explained by voting boycotts from Sisi detractors. It is reported by BBC News that the Islamist group called the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as some liberal and secular activist groups, boycotted voting in the elections. BBC News also reported a senior member of the Brotherhood, Tariq al-Zumar, called the elections a "theatrical play which did not convince anybody".

Those that celebrate Sisi’s victory hope that his presidency will reverse the radical conservatism that the country saw under the previous presidency of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi-supporters see it as defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood whom the ousted Morsi was a member of.

Sisi has had a relentless response to removing the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt. He is responsible for 16,000 detentions and 1,400 executions of Muslim Brotherhood members, according to BBC News. The group has since been declared a terrorist organization and banned from the country.

But, according to the numbers, there are supporters of Sisi. Al Jazeera says that most of his supporters are leftover Mubarak supporters, like former members of the regime and business people. Also, the Coptic Christians.

Despite the surrounding controversy, Hamdeen Sabahi, Sisi’s opposition, admits defeat. CNN reports Sabahi released the official statement conceding that said, "It is time to respect the people's choice and admit my loss."'

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Ramadan Kareem 2012 | Post Arab Springs

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:58 AM EDT, 20 July 2012

MIDDLE EAST, ASIA, & AFRICA – Across the globe 1 billion Muslims have begun to celebrate Ramadan 2012 which will start on Friday, the 20th of July and will continue until Saturday, the 18th of August. For the next 30 days, Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink, sex, and other physical needs from sun up to sundown.

During this time, observant and non-observant Muslims are challenged to reevaluate their lives and make the appropriate adjustments to bring their actions and lifestyle back in line with Islamic teachings. Adherents are commanded to make peace with those who have wronged them or whom they have wronged, resist engaging in bad habits, help the poor, purify their souls and refocus on God.

The holiday occurs amidst numerous conflicts which continue to besiege the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Springs. Most notably: the ongoing civil war in Syria, the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and the death of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi at the hands of rebel fighters.

Just like the Syrian government remains at odds with its citizens and other nations with the exception of Russia and China; it has also set itself apart by proclaiming that Ramadan will begin on Saturday, 21 July 2012.

Internecine conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims regarding religious interpretation is particularly evident during this holy month. The differences between the two streams are quite complex and historically rooted in the dispute over succession following the death of the Prophet Mohammed.

Thus, “Dar al-Fatwa, the highest religious authority for Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, announced on Thursday that Friday will be the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. While the Higher Islamic Shiite Council declared that the first day of Ramadan will start on Saturday.” (Source: yaLibnan)

Today, the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawi, which is a branch of the Twelver school of Shia Islam, announced that Ramadan will begin on Saturday. But, the Syrian National Council which seeks to overthrow the Assad government said that the holy day will be observed starting Friday.

In a grand gesture, Egypt’s newly elected President Mohammed Morsi ‘righted wrong doing’ by pardoning 572 pro-democracy activists who were arrested during protests for regime change. While Israeli President Shimon Peres extended a Ramadan Kareem greeting via video to Muslims worldwide. (Watch Here)

During this month of Ramadan, Muslims are challenging themselves personally and communally to continue their commitment to God, to achieving peace, and promoting greater understanding of their faith and culture.

It is incumbent upon the rest of us to meet moderate Muslims half-way if we as a human race ever expect to achieve peaceful coexistence with all people despite country of origin, culture, or religious practices.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Egypt's Military Hijacks Elections

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:46 PM EDT, 18 June 2012

Egyptian Military Members, Photo by Jonathan RashadCAIRO,  Egypt - The first ‘free’ presidential election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak 16 months ago were held and The Brotherhood’s Freedom declared its candidate, Mohammed Morsy as the victor. This despite the fact that the just as polls were closing, the ruling Military council issued constitutional amendments that gave sweeping authority to maintain its grip on power and subordinate the nominal head of state.

This leaves Egyptian protesters who gave so much in pursuit of freedom and a democratically elected government between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place.’ The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which has been ruling since Mubarak’s overthrow initially proclaimed it was in effect acting in the capacity of placeholder until a new president was elected.

Unfortunately, like many African nations, most recently Mali, once the military assumes power the likelihood of their relinquishing this power peaceably is historically low. Additionally, Egypt has a six decade long history of military rule and now the only alternatives are to return to military rule or submit to potential radical Islamist government.

In Sunday’s decree, the military assumed legislative authority after instructing the court to dissolve parliament. They will also control the drafting a new constitution but will not allow civilian oversight of its significant economic interests or other affairs.

Using its legislative authority, the military council issued another decree made public on Monday forming a new national defense council made up of 11 senior military commanders, including the defense minister, as well as the president, which would in effect solidify the role of the military as the highest authority over national security policy.

Morsy, 60, represents the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic fundamentalist group which has emerged as the most powerful political faction since the uprising is sensitive to the vulnerabilities of his party. In a highly charged region in which Egypt has traditionally been staunch U.S. ally and a moderate voice in the Israeli Arab conflict, his only chance to retain his newly elected presidency is to quickly distance himself from radical elements.

In a victory speech Morsy clearly sought to assuage the fears of many Egyptians that the Brotherhood will try to impose stricter provisions of Islamic law. He said he seeks "stability, love and brotherhood for the Egyptian civil, national, democratic, constitutional and modern state" and made no mention of Islamic law.

Egypt is in a precarious and potential explosive position because as John C. Calhoun said, “The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.”

Mubarak's Unexpected Death Sentence?

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 14:41 PM EDT, 11 June 2012

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Photo by Sun NewsCAIRO, Egypt - Hosni Mubarak is currently in intensive care following his decline in health since his 2 June 2012 conviction. Though currently incarcerated for life, this did not assuage the ire of family and friends of protesters who were brutally murdered during Mubarak’s crack down of the Arab Spring uprising. The citizens of Egypt had hoped that he and his top officials would be convicted of murder.

Had he been convicted of murder he would have automatically been sentenced to death. However, Mubarak was sentenced to the lessor punishment of life in prison. Immediately following the verdict he was transferred to Cairo’s Torah prison to begin serving his time.

Subsequent to his transfer, Mubarak’s health rapidly deteriorated to the point where it was rumored that he had died. His wife, former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, refuted this claim after visiting him, but did say that he is very ill and should be transferred back to the military hospital where he was housed since his April 2011 arrest. These requests have been repeatedly denied.

Per The Associated Press, officials stated that "The former president's health is in decline, but now it's stable in its deteriorated state." Since his wife's visit, Mubarak has suffered from "an irregular heartbeat and required assistance in breathing.” He has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit, however, his wife hasn't been able to see him again because of prison policy limiting the frequency with which prisons can receive visitors.

It is ironic that Mubarak should fear the Torah prison where his government routinely incarcerated dissidents. According to news sources, he broke down upon hearing the news of his transfer there to serve out his life sentence. It is a verdict that is contested by all parties – Mubarak who feels betrayed by the military government who ousted him, and the protesters who demanded his death and feel that through back room dealings the military acquiesced to a sentence of life imprisonment.

If, Mubarak is truly as ill as claimed, then the issue may ultimately become a moot point since he may soon die. His proximal death delivered by nature versus man yields the net result of another despot biting the dust.  If, however, the pronouncement of his early demise is a ruse, authorities should immediately return him to jail to serve out his sentence, thus providing a modicum of justice for Egyptian citizens who desired the ultimate punishment.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Egypt Makes Conciliatory Gesture toward U.S.

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:22 PM EDT, 29 February 2012

Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypts Interim Head of StateCAIRO, Egypt - Minutes ago Egyptian officials announced that they would lift the travel ban on 7 of the 16 Americans who have been accused of inciting violence among Egyptian protesters during recent rallies.

Since their detention, relations between the United States and Egypt continued to deteriorate. The one-time strong allies have suffered several crippling blows to their 30-year relationship.

First, was the loss of one of their staunchest ally in the region - President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted after 18 days of Arab Spring protests. The US' inability to successfully broker an Israel Palestinian peace accord, followed by this latest incarceration of American citizens has strained the relationship to breaking.

This latest fracas in which 16 Americans and 27 other people were put on trial for "illegally obtaining funds to foment unrest in Egypt and incite protesters against the nation's military rulers," was the third blow to an apparently foundering relationship.

Although, the trial of the 33 individuals began on 26 February 2012, it was subsequently adjourned until 26 April 2012. The US communicated through back channels that the continued detention of their citizens was unacceptable under any circumstances.

The lifting of the travel ban on the 7 remaining pro-democracy activists, signals an end to a politically charged incident, thus paving the way for the detained Americans to leave the country.  The other 9 were not in country and the 7 remaining NGO workers did not appear in court on Sunday.

This conciliatory gesture may have come as a result of threats to cut off much needed aid to Egypt from America.