In my weekend column in Egypt, I mentioned this:
Are they suddenly Swedish-style social democrats? Human Rights Watch reports that almost 100 women were subjected to violent sexual assault over four days in Tahrir Square, which suggests not.
As in the Congolese civil war, where both sides agreed that pygmies made excellent appetizers, in the Egyptian political stand-off, the young men of both pro- and anti-Morsi forces agree on little else except that the chicks are fair game. This ugly aspect has gone strikingly under-reported in America for over two years, ever since CBS chose to downplay the rape of its own correspondent. So I’m very glad NPR chose to do a story on this grim subject, “Sexual Assaults Reportedly Rampant During Egypt Protests.” To put it in the terms famously formulated by Whoopi Goldberg, this isn’t rape-rape but rape-rape-rape:
The rights group says the latest attacks follow an all too familiar pattern since mass protests began in 2011: A few men force a girl or woman away from the people she’s with; rip off her clothes and assault her. Passersby join in the attacks, which range from groping to gang rapes that can last more than an hour.
This is why President Morsi keeping his first lady in a body bag is more than a fashion statement, but a statement about a society’s fundamental views on who has value and who doesn’t. That manifests itself at all levels below him — including the justice system, law enforcement, and the medical profession:
The volunteer adds that compounding the viciousness of the attacks is how victims are treated by Egyptian authorities. He recalls a case last Tuesday of a young woman in her 20s who was dragged into the subway station at Tahrir Square. There, she was stripped and gang-raped.
Afterward, she was taken to the police station, where the traumatized woman demanded her attackers be punished, Wassef says.
“She was presented to a doctor who wanted to [carry out] a virginity test in the police station itself,” he says. “That led this young woman to completely break down in tears.”
Egypt is imprisoned less by its passing dictators than by its own psychoses.