Mavi Marmara victim to donate compensation to Hamas, Islamic Jihad (& Saudi paralysis sentence)

April 04, 2013

The Saudi Arabian paralysis sentence amounts to torture, says Amnesty International. Above, execution by beheading in Jeddah


* Saudi Arabian court orders a man to be paralyzed from the waist down. Amnesty International declares the Saudi punishment to be a form of torture.

* Saudi Arabia buys armed drones from South Africa after the Obama administration declined to sell it Predator or Reaper missile-firing unmanned aircraft.

* Three British anti-Israel activists raped by Libyan soldiers, while en route to Gaza as part of a new convoy organized by the Turkish nongovernmental radical Islamist organization IHH.

* The Atlantic magazine: All across Syria there is a massive and largely unreported rape crisis: “One day in the fall of 2012, Syrian government troops brought a young Free Syrian Army soldier’s fiancée, sisters, mother, and female neighbors to the Syrian prison in which he was being held. One by one, he said, they were raped in front of him. When asked if he, too, was raped, he went silent.”

* “Eighty percent of our reports in Syria include female victims, with ages ranging from 7 to 46. Of those women, 85 percent reported rape; 10 percent include sexual assault without penetration; and 10 percent include detention that appears to have been for the purposes of sexualized violence or enslavement. Gang rape allegedly occurred in 40 percent of the reports about women.”

* Former Weather Underground radical Kathy Boudin – who spent 22 years in prison for an armored-car robbery that killed two cops and a Brinks guard – appointed to a prestigious adjunct professorship at New York’s Columbia University.


* You can comment on this dispatch here: Please also press “Like” on that page.



1. “Mavi Marmara victim to donate compensation to Hamas, Islamic Jihad” (Hurriyet daily news, April 3, 2013)
2. “Amnesty slams Saudi ‘paralysis’ sentence” (Beirut Daily Star, April 2, 2013)
3. “Saudi Arabia buying South African armed drone” (Washington Free Beacon, April 2, 2013)
4. “‘Activists’ hoping to help breach Gaza blockade, raped in Benghazi” (Jewish Press, April 1, 2013)
5. “Radical jailed in slay now Columbia Univ professor” (New York Post, April 2, 2013)
6. “Syria has a massive rape crisis” (The Atlantic, April 3 2013)
7. “How Egypt’s radical rulers crush the lives and hopes of women” (The Observer, UK, March 31, 2013)

I attach a variety of articles concerning women’s issues, broader human rights issues and terrorism -- Tom Gross



Mavi Marmara victim to donate compensation to Hamas, Islamic Jihad
Hurriyet Daily News (Istanbul)
April 3 2013

One of the victims of the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla has announced that he will donate the compensation to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel apologized to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara raid in which nine Turkish nationals died and agreed to pay compensation to the families of the victims.

Activist Mehmet Tunç said he would donate the compensation to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine himself, adding that he would not touch even “one Turkish Lira” of it at a press conference today.

Tunç had been a volunteer on the Mavi Marmara ship traveling to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. He told reporters that nine of his friends had been martyred by the Israeli forces in a raid he called “against international law.”

Abdullah Demirel, Tunç’s lawyer, said the Israeli government had apologized for the first time in its history and that it was a “huge development.” Demirel also said they had been informed by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on the compensation issue.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hosted the families of the Mavi Marmara victims late April 2. The ministers informed the families at a dinner about the recent reconciliation process between Turkey and Israel, which was started by an Israeli apology for the losses in the Mavi Marmara incident. The lawyers of the families were also present at the meeting.

The families have not yet made their final decision as to whether accept the compensation that will eventually be offered by Israel and withdraw from cases against Israeli soldiers, according to sources.

Arınç said yesterday that the families had said that “any words about compensation would sadden them. The core of the issue is the apology and lifting of the embargo [on the Gaza Strip]. The government’s work on compensation would be right for them as well.”



Amnesty slams Saudi ‘paralysis’ sentence
Beirut Daily Star
April 2, 2013

DUBAI: Amnesty International appealed Tuesday to Saudi Arabia not to carry out a reported sentence of paralysis for a man in retribution for allegedly paralysing another man 10 years ago.

Ali al-Khawahir, 24, was reportedly sentenced to Qisas, or retribution, in the Eastern Province town of Al-Ahsa and could be paralysed from waist down if he fails to pay compensation of one million riyals ($270,000), the rights watchdog said, citing Saudi media reports.

It said Khawahir had stabbed his friend in the back in 2003, rendering him paralysed from the waist down. He was 14 at the time.

“Paralysing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture,” said Ann Harrison, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty.

“It is time the authorities in Saudi Arabia start respecting their international legal obligations and remove these terrible punishments from the law,” she said in a statement.

Amnesty said a similar sentence of paralysis was imposed in 2010 but that it was unknown if it had been carried out.

The ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom imposes several forms of corporal punishment attributed to Islamic sharia law, ranging from flogging, to amputation and beheading.



Saudi Arabia buying South African armed drone
By Bill Gertz
Washington Free Beacon
April 2, 2013

Saudi Arabia is buying an armed drone from South Africa after the Obama administration declined to sell the oil-rich kingdom U.S. Predator or Reaper missile-firing unmanned aircraft.

The state-owned South African company Denel Dynamics is working covertly with the Saudis to develop the Seeker 400 drone into an armed combat system for the Saudi military, the Paris-based newsletter Intelligence Online reported March 27.

The Seeker 400 is an advanced version of the company’s Seeker II unarmed surveillance aircraft.

The newsletter stated that the Saudi military would be the first customer to purchase the Seeker 400 armed drone and engineers from Denel are in the kingdom as part of the secret program.

If completed, the sale would allow Saudi Arabia to join the growing number of militaries that operate missile-firing drones–the most advanced weapon currently in use to launch precision strikes on terrorists.

Drone warfare has become the hallmark of the CIA, which is aggressively pursuing terrorists with drone missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s frontier region, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and elsewhere.

The new drone will be equipped with South Africa’s Mokopa air-to-ground missiles that are currently deployed on Algerian helicopters. The drone also can be outfitted with Impi laser-guided missiles with a range of 10 kilometers.

The drones are believed to be sought by the Saudis for use against the terrorist group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is currently operating in Yemen and has conducted international operations against the United States.

Riyadh has been trying to purchase missile-firing drones from the United States but so far the requests have been denied.

The United Arab Emirates is purchasing an unarmed export version of the Predator called the Predator XP, produced by General Atomics.

According to the newsletter, the Saudis have sought armed drones for several years and want the weapons to counter Iran’s unmanned combat vehicles known as the Karrar and the Shahed 129, which are fitted with Shahid-1 missiles.

“Because it could not procure drones from China, which is allied to Iran, nor from Israel, Riyadh turned to South Africa,” the newsletter stated.

However, Saudi Arabia lacks the infrastructure needed to operate drones. The systems require satellite communications that permit remote video and communications that allow drones to be piloted.

The Seeker 400 can fly for 16 hours and has a range of 250 kilometers with a 100-kilogram payload.

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan Advanced Technologies Research Institute (PSATRI), a joint project of the Saudi air force and the King Fahd University, is also developing surveillance drones for use along the southern Saudi border, the newsletter stated.
Spokesmen for Denel and the Saudi Embassy could not be reached for comment.

News reports in February revealed that Saudi Arabia is hosting a U.S. attack drone base in the southern part of the country that was revealed in satellite imagery.

These satellite images show a remote airstrip deep in the desert of Saudi Arabia. It may or may not be the secret U.S. drone base revealed by reporters earlier this week.

However, the base’s hangars bear a remarkable resemblance to similar structures found on other American drone outposts. And its remote location – dozens of miles from the nearest highway, and farther still to the nearest town – suggests that this may be more than the average civilian airstrip.

The base had been kept secret for two years until disclosed in reports by the Washington Post and New York Times in February.

The base was used for the drone strike in September 2011 that killed American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki.



‘Activists’ Hoping to Help Breach Gaza Blockade, Raped in Benghazi
By Lori Lowenthal Marcus
The Jewish Press.
April 1, 2013

Three female British nationals who had been attempting to take part in yet another effort to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza were brutally gang raped when, blocked from leaving the Libyan border, they were abducted and assaulted. Early reports are that the men who abducted and attacked the women are Libyan soldiers.

The women were part of a ten vehicle convoy which had been wending its way through southern Europe and northern Africa towards Egypt, allegedly seeking to bring in “humanitarian” aid to Gaza. Typically these efforts to break the legal blockade of Gaza carry little of real value, any of which can be brought in through other points of entry.

This vehicular convoy was organized by the Turkish nongovernmental organization IHH, which describes itself as a humanitarian relief organization, but which terrorism experts consider a “a radical Islamist group masquerading as a humanitarian agency.”

According to terrorism financing expert Jonathan Schanzer, the IHH belongs to a Saudi-based umbrella organization known to finance terrorism called the Union of Good. Schanzer wrote that “the Union is chaired by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who is known best for his religious ruling that encourages suicide attacks against Israeli civilians.” Qardawi is alleged to have personally transferred millions of dollars to the Union in an effort to provide financial support to Hamas.

The IHH, of course, is the same “humanitarian” agency that had organized the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in late May 2010. During that effort Israeli naval forces repeatedly informed those on board the ships that they had to turn back and all goods could be distributed if they docked at the Israeli port of Ashdod. When the flotilla ships refused to turn back, Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship, where they were brutally attacked. The Israelis eventually opened fire, leading to the death of 9 aboard the ship, and injury to many more, including to the Israeli soldiers.

The “aid” convoy of approximately ten trucks left Britain on February 25, but had been detained for many days along the Libyan-Egyptian border. Egyptian border guards refused to allow them to cross into that country. The convoy was named the “Mavi Marmara” after the ship on which the Israeli and Turkish nationals had been injured during the 2010 confrontation.

The British nationals, frustrated by the long wait at the Egyptian border, went to Benghazi, hoping to make arrangements to fly back to Britain. It was in Benghazi that the five were abducted, and the three women, two of whom are sisters and who were accompanied by their father, were sexually assaulted. The father was present and witnessed the horrific assaults on his daughters.

The IHH allegedly mediated for the release of the captives, and they were released to the Turkish Consulate in Libya, where they are currently reported as safe and waiting to return to the UK.

The Libyan Deputy Prime Minister, Awadh al-Barassi, said he had been to visit the women who had been assaulted and their family was “in a very bad psychological state.”

“Sadly [the perpetrators] belong to army, but they don’t reflect the ethics of Libya army,” Mr al-Barassi said in an interview with the national Libya al-Hurra television channel.



Outrage 101: Radical jailed in slay now Columbia prof
By Larry Celona and Dan Mangan
New York Post
April 2, 2013

Former Weather Underground radical Kathy Boudin – who spent 22 years in prison for an armored-car robbery that killed two cops and a Brinks guard – now holds a prestigious adjunct professorship at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, The Post has learned.

Boudin, 69, this year won another academic laurel – being named the Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence at NYU Law School, where last month she gave a lecture on “the politics of parole and re-entry.”

Boudin’s bounce-back into respectability after her 2003 parole comes to light a week before the release of Robert Redford’s movie “The Company You Keep,” loosely based on the $1.6 million heist.

Boudin’s status of perp-turned-prof outraged the widow of one of her victims, Brinks guard and dad of three Peter Paige, who was gunned down by her accomplices from the Black Liberation Army on Oct. 20, 1981, in Rockland County.
Boudin acted as a getaway driver in the heist.

“She doesn’t deserve a job at all,” said Josephine Paige, 74, when told of Boudin’s posts. “She doesn’t deserve anything, nothing at all. I think she should be back in an institution.”

John Hanchar, the nephew of another victim of the robbery, Nyack Police Officer Edward O’Grady, said that while Boudin “has a right to do whatever she wants . . . I just hope the people that she’s lecturing are smart enough to question why [she felt] like killing people is an acceptable choice to forward their goals.”

“It’s easy to forget that violence is never the answer. Nine children grew up without their dads because of her actions,” said Hanchar, whose uncle O’Grady was shot with automatic weapons. Boudin did not respond to a request for comment.

She teaches about the issues facing convicts and their families when a person is released from prison.

Of the hundreds of students Boudin has taught, Yoshioka said, just three have expressed qualms about her criminal background, and only one “switched out” of a class because of those concerns.

One Friday, a criminal-justice conference at the school will feature keynote address by Angela Davis, another infamous radical, and later this month Boudin is scheduled to speak at Columbia Law School’s conference on child and family advocacy.

“I’m happy that she’s doing something positive with her life,” said Robert Van Cura, Rockland County’s undersheriff. But he said, “I believe there’s probably other people that are available to provide education beyond someone who is on parole for murder.”

Columbia School of Social Work Associate Dean Marianne Yoshioka, who hired Boudin for the adjunct-professor post in 2008, said she has been “an excellent teacher who gets incredible evaluations from her students each year.”



Syria has a massive rape crisis
By Lauren Wolfe
The Atlantic
April 3 2013

One day in the fall of 2012, Syrian government troops brought a young Free Syrian Army soldier’s fiancée, sisters, mother, and female neighbors to the Syrian prison in which he was being held. One by one, he said, they were raped in front of him.

The 18-year-old had been an FSA soldier for less than a month when he was picked up. Crying uncontrollably as he recounted his torture while in detention to a psychiatrist named Yassar Kanawati, he said he suffers from a spinal injury inflicted by his captors. The other men detained with him were all raped, he told the doctor. When Kanawati asked if he, too, was raped, he went silent.

Although most coverage of the Syrian civil war tends to focus on the fighting between the two sides, this war, like most, has a more insidious dimension: rape has been reportedly used widely as a tool of control, intimidation, and humiliation throughout the conflict. And its effects, while not always fatal, are creating a nation of traumatized survivors -- everyone from the direct victims of the attacks to their children, who may have witnessed or been otherwise affected by what has been perpetrated on their relatives.

In September 2012, I was at the United Nations when Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide shook up a fluorescent-lit room of bored-looking bureaucrats by saying that what happened during the Bosnian war is “repeating itself right now in Syria.” He was referring to the rape of tens of thousands of women in that country in the 1990s.

“With every war and major conflict, as an international community we say ‘never again’ to mass rape,” said Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, who is co-chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. [Full disclosure: I’m on the advisory committee of the campaign.] “Yet, in Syria, as countless women are again finding the war waged on their bodies--we are again standing by and wringing our hands.”

We said after the Holocaust we’d never forget; we said it after Darfur. We probably said it after the mass rapes of Bosnia and Rwanda, but maybe that was more of a “we shouldn’t forget,” since there was so much global guilt that we just sort of sat back and let similar tragedies occur since and only came to the realization later -- we forgot.

Could we have forgotten that the unfolding human catastrophe in Syria exists before it’s even over?


Using a crowd-sourced map for the last year, our team at the Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege project, together with Columbia University epidemiologists, the Syrian-American Medical Society, and Syrian activists and journalists, has documented and collected data to figure out where and how women and men are being violated in Syria’s war. And, perhaps most important, by whom.

We’ve broken down the 162 stories we’ve gathered from the onset of the conflict in March 2011 through March 2013 into 226 separate pieces of data. All our reports are currently marked “unverified” (even those that come from well-known sources like Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and news outlet such as the BBC) because we have not yet been able to independently confirm them.

Eighty percent of our reports include female victims, with ages ranging from 7 to 46. Of those women, 85 percent reported rape; 10 percent include sexual assault without penetration; and 10 percent include detention that appears to have been for the purposes of sexualized violence or enslavement for a period of longer than 24 hours. (We generally use this category when we hear soldiers describe being ordered to detain women to rape them; we’re not guessing at intent.) Gang rape allegedly occurred in 40 percent of the reports about women.

In mid-March, I was in Michigan, surrounded by Syrians who live here but are helping out their fellow citizens in refugee camps and health centers. Kanawati, the psychologist, told me that day that she had visited with a refugee family in Jordan and listened to one of three sisters describe how a group of Syrian army soldiers had come to their house in Homs, tied up their father and brother, andraped the three women in front of them. The woman cried as she went on to describe how after raping them the soldiers opened their legs and burned their vaginas with cigarettes. They allegedly told the women during this: “You want freedom? This is your freedom.”

The psychiatrist asked one of the three sisters, who was holding a baby, “Is that baby from the rape?” The woman changed the subject.

All the women are having nightmares, Kanawati said; all have PTSD. Now, she said, the two sisters are employed in Amman, but the mother, who does not work, is “consumed by the baby.” The brother will not speak.

This family is quietly living with trauma that reaches across generations.

Men are more than just witnesses to sexualized violence in Syria; they are experiencing it directly as well. Forty-three of the reports on our map -- about 20 percent -- involve attacks against men and boys, all of whom are between the ages of 11 and 56. Nearly half of the reports about men involve rape, while a quarter detail sexualized violence without penetration, such as shocks to the genitals. Sixteen percent of the men who have been raped in our reports were allegedly violated by multiple attackers.

Government perpetrators have allegedly committed the majority of the attacks we’ve been able to track: 60 percent of the attacks against men and women are reportedly by government forces, with another 17 percent carried out by government and shabiha (plainclothes militia) forces together. When it comes to the rape of women, government forces have allegedly carried out 54 percent these attacks; shabiha have allegedly perpetrated 20 percent; government andshabiha working together 6 percent.

Overall, the FSA has allegedly carried out less than 1 percent of the sexualized attacks in our total reports. About 15 percent of the attacks have unknown or other perpetrators.

When it comes to men, more than 90 percent of the reports of sexualized violence have been allegedly perpetrated by government forces, which can perhaps be explained by the fact that most of these attacks occurred in detention facilities. Long used as a weapon against prisoners in Syria as in much of the world, rape appears to be utilized during this conflict in horrifyingly soul-crushing, creative ways. Beyond simply raping detainees, shabiha members or Syrian army soldiers have reportedly carried out the rapes offamily members or other women front of prisoners.

Atrocities are inevitably muted when victims die, and perpetrators worldwide know this. Part of the reason we’ve chosen to live-track sexualized violence in Syria is because so much evidence is lost in war. Consider that 18 percent of the women in our reports were allegedly witnessed killed or found dead after sexualized violence. Look at this report from Beirut-based news site Ya Libnan, which describes a confession from a defected Syrian Army soldier who said he was ordered “to rape teenage girls in Homs at the end of last year.”

“The girls would generally be shot when everyone had finished,” the soldier said. “They wanted it to be known in the neighborhoods that the girls had been raped, but they didn’t want the girls to survive and be able to identify them later.”

Because there is a deleterious and under-documented personal aftermath of sexualized violence, we are also tracking its mental and physical health fallout. Ten percent of the women in our reports appear to suffer from anxiety, depression, or other psychological trauma, and that’s clearly a low estimate considering the acts described. Three percent of the women have reportedly become pregnant from rape, and 2 percent suffer from a chronic physical disease as a result of the violence.


When I asked Kanawati how many women she’s spoken to and treated who have survived rape, she said it’s impossible to know. She has interviewed dozens of refugees who may have been raped or otherwise sexually tortured, mostly in Homs. Originally from Damascus, she is currently the medical director of Family Intervention Specialists in the Atlanta area and has been working with Syrian refugees in Amman with the support of the Syrian-American Medical Society.

A 4-year-old girl from Homs drew this for a psychiatrist in Amman. The girl had witnessed her uncle killed by a tank, and kept repeating “Uncle, tank, blood,” according to the psychiatrist. The girl’s mother says their neighbor was raped by Syrian soldiers the same day. (Yassar Kanawati)

“Syrian families are very conservative and I always tell them: ‘ Rape is a way to break the family. The easiest way,’“ Kanawati said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t let this break you--this is what they’re trying to do.’ When I tell that to the women, however, they say, ‘Tell that to our husbands.’”

She described how women have repeatedly told her that their neighbors were raped, usually by more than one man, and how each time the extraordinary detail the women give and the trauma they exhibit tells her that the story isn’t actually about a “neighbor,” but the woman herself. More than that, the storytellers usually go on to describe how the “neighbor’s” husband then left this woman.

Sex outside of marriage, let alone the violation of a woman in an act of rape, said Kanawati, is “completely taboo.”

Erin Gallagher, a former investigator of sexual and gender-based violence for the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria (and before that on Libya), spent months speaking with Syrian women and men in camps in Jordan and Turkey. She said it’s very difficult to get an accurate idea at this point of the scope of sexualized crimes in Syria and that “there are more victims out there than what we are finding.” Getting a true idea of the scope, she said, “is going to take time, trust building, and a broader, holistic approach.”

Kanawati said her sister, an ob-gyn who lives in Damascus, has carefully told her (for fear of eavesdropping), “You would not believe how much rape there is.” Her sister has treated women who say they have been raped by soldiers orshabiha militia members in the rural areas around the city.

Gallagher explained why so few victims of sexualized violence in Syria are coming forward publicly.

“The reality is that they have much to lose and little to gain by doing so at this point in time, for many reasons,” she said. “It takes a lot of courage and strength for a victim to speak up and they may be on their own with little support as they do it. In addition to the shame and isolation a victim may feel, they now are in an insecure environment due to the war. They may now be living in a large refugee camp with no privacy, surrounded by people they don’t know or trust.”

With no clear future for Syria in sight, refugees are understandably cautious about who they speak to and trust with sensitive and personal information. “If they tell someone, to whom and where does that information go?” Gallagher said. It may be hard to put their trust in a stranger when, time and again, there has been little justice for victims of wartime rape.

Add to all that the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma that victims are suffering from the war and displacement, and “it’s not surprising that victims are reluctant to come forward,” she said.

Hearing this I can’t help but think of the preface to Night, in which Elie Wiesel writes: “For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and the living... .To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive.”


“The security forces and the shabiha took whole families outside after destroying their homes,” a woman named Amal told the pan-Arab newspaperAl-Hayat in June 2012. “They stripped my girls from their clothes, raped them then killed them with knives. They were shouting: ‘You want freedom? This is the best brand of freedom.’”

It’s nearly word-for-word the sentences spoken in the story above about the women raped and then burned with cigarettes.

Coincidence? Maybe. But repeated phrasing is exactly the kind of thing that helps build international cases for human rights violations. Language can indicate whether mass rape has been coordinated and systematic. Recently, a U.S.-based group called AIDS-Free World successfully petitioned to have South Africa investigate mass rape allegedly carried out by the ruling ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe against opposition supporters in 2008. Part of their case was built on the fact that they heard that similar phrases were being uttered during rapes across the country--women were called “traitors to Zimbabwe” or told they were being “sent a message,” according to Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World.

Gallagher, who also investigated rape in Libya, said she’s heard about such phrases being used during rape in both countries.

“I don’t think it necessarily means it was an order,” she said of Libya, “but certainly a common belief among the soldiers. They knew they had free reign. I can’t conclude if [Bashar al-] Assad and his command ordered it or have just given his men free reign. What is clear is that he and his commanders are doing nothing to stop their soldiers from committing such crimes.”

For a year, I’ve sat in circles of high-level advisors from the International Criminal Court and elsewhere debating what might tip Russia’s hand and prevent it from vetoing a vote to send Syria’s human rights crimes to the court. But now with the success of AIDS-Free World’s use of a concept called universal jurisdiction, which crosses borders to try crimes that are so heinous that they call for a sense of greater justice, perhaps it is time to consider alternatives to the ICC. Jody Williams, known for rousing the slumbering world when it came to banning landmines, has some ideas.

“We don’t need more research or more proof, we need a plan,” said Williams. “And the plan should be to ensure that there is coordinated international action to ensure survivors get help, justice is served against those perpetrating the sexualized violence, and we are all working together to prevent further rape. This will take men, women, communities, national governments, and the international community -- everyone.”

Personally, I’m hoping this is the last report I’ll have to write parsing data from a map that shouldn’t have to exist in the first place. Somehow, though, I don’t think that will be the case.



How Egypt’s radical rulers crush the lives and hopes of women
Tracy McVeigh in Cairo
The Observer (Sunday edition of The Guardian, UK)
March 31, 2013

The ambush came from the left, from a side street which led up the hill to Mokattam mosque. A rush of hundreds of men running down on the march of anti-government protesters, bringing a sudden clatter of rocks landing all around, the crack of shots fired and the whizz of tear gas canisters. Sticks, stones and metal bars flew through the smoke in both directions and screaming women and men ran back the way they came.

Dozens of manned police vans remained parked a kilometre away. The only sirens came from ambulances that drove through the crowds and past burning vehicles to take some 40 injured people to hospital.

One angry woman with a bleeding mouth and eyes streaming from the tear gas pulled off her headscarf and stood yelling at the other side, the supporters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood: “You are not Islam! You are not Egypt! Where is my freedom?”

So go most Fridays in Cairo over the past few weeks as liberal Egyptians have shown their virulent opposition to the president, Mohamed Morsi, as he has awarded himself new powers and pushed through a deeply contentious new constitution. Several buildings of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group behind Morsi, have been burned. In post-Arab spring Egypt the revolution continues. But it’s women of all classes who have found themselves most alienated – written out of the jostling for power and subjected to a skyrocketing number of sex assaults, rapes and harassment.

Women who stood shoulder to shoulder with men during the 2011 Tahrir Square protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak found their position in society undermined almost immediately. The parliamentary quota for women was removed without debate and a promised female vice-president failed to materialise, amid what political commentator Moushira Khattab called “a radical anti-feminist sentiment”. Morsi threatened but stopped short of decriminalising Egypt’s practice of female genital mutilation, carried out on almost three-quarters of Egyptian girls, making it clear he would not tackle an issue he called “a family matter”.

The new constitution has swept away recognition of women’s rights and left the door open to the legalisation of perhaps Egypt’s most crippling social issue – underage marriage. Draft legislation that would allow the legal age of marriage to be lowered from 18 to 13 has been drawn up while clerics within the Muslim Brotherhood have indicated that marriage at the age of nine for girls is acceptable.

“They see women as, number one, objects of sex and, number two, to clean their floors. This is what the Egyptian ‘brotherhood’ is all about,” said Fatma, 24, an engineering graduate marching with her friends, some in burqas, some in headscarves. The women keep close together, arms linked and eyes alert for the men flying down the side of the demonstration on motorcycles grabbing and screaming at females. “They want to marry us at nine years old. Are these really the kind of men we want to run our country? Paedophiles?”

Political progress has been slow, with parliamentary elections scheduled for April now postponed with no new date. Frustrations have built.

“They are like a pack of dogs, tearing out the weakest first, raping and harassing the women and the girls, getting rid of them, and then fighting among themselves to be pack leader,” said Aya Kadry, 62.

Around Cairo hundreds of tower blocks are being built, extending the Arab world’s largest city leg by leg into the desert. This is where the vast majority of Egypt’s women are already living the constrained lives that the educated and middle-classes fear will be imposed by a radical government. Child marriage is common, the norm among the poor. Doctors are bribed to sign documents asserting a 14-year-old is 18 but most people don’t have the money so marriages go ahead without registration. Underage girls then have children who, essentially illegal, cannot have their births registered. Without papers those children cannot attend school, encasing a whole new generation in poverty.

In the poor district of Ezbet Khairallah 10 women are sitting around a metal cash box, holding the weekly meeting of their savings and loans group. Set up by the charity Plan Egypt, it encourages women to squirrel away a few coins when they can and to discuss problems.

“We do not really have time to talk to our neighbours, there is a great burden of things to do in the home and for some of us our husbands do not like us to go out of doors, although we have convinced them we should meet for this social fund because it will help all the family,” said Seham Ahmed, 38, who is taking the opportunity to show the group how to make a basic liquid soap.

“I was married at 14,” she said, thumping a stick round a battered bucket and most of the women around her nod. “Pulled out of school one day and married that night. I hope my daughters can wait a little while but it’s quite difficult for girls who are not married at an early age to find a good man later and there is a lot of pressure. And fathers want girls gone because it is one mouth less to feed.”

Asmaa Mohamed Fawzy is 21. She was engaged but her family allowed her to break it off when her best friend died in childbirth aged 16. “I liked having the ring but I was only 15 and didn’t know any better. When Aya died it was a miserable tragedy and I’m very lucky that my mum agreed with me I should not get married. I get teased and bullied. They shout I am not pretty enough, why am I the ugly one, but I do not want to die or to have children who cannot go to school. It is probably too late for me now and I’m sad I won’t have children.”

Her mother, Naghzaky Abdalla, 47, also endures being shunned by her neighbours. “When her friend died I too made up my mind. We only have one so we can afford to protect her. A neighbour had died at 15 of bleeding: the doctors wouldn’t treat her because she was married illegally and they don’t want to get involved. The girls’ bodies are not ready for childbirth and they are not ready for sexual relations which makes their husbands impatient with them.

“Three girls in our street stay indoors now for ever because their husbands divorced them. If they cannot prove they were married and they are not virgins then they cannot get married again so they are shunned. Many are divorced because of course these girls are too young to understand what marriage means, she is still a child. In our community, though, a girl should be married before she is 16, maximum.”

Mrs Gihan, 45, a community activist with strong views, is fervently for the lowering the age of marriage to 13 in law. “We must do this,” she said. “Because all the unregistered children who cannot go to school need to be helped. These girls are denied healthcare, their children are denied a future. They have already decreased the legal age of work from 14 to 12 and I think this age too should be lowered. When Mubarak listened to international pressure and raised the age to 18 it changed nothing here. If you decree a legal age then you simply criminalise and marginalise. Men leave their wives before they turn 18 and their children are seen as being born into prostitution. We will raise awareness and stop child marriage this way.”

The stench of human waste coming from the river in another poor Cairo district, Manial Sheiha, is overpowering. The streets of packed earth are quiet with only children to be seen.

Nawal Rashid opens her door but remains on one side of the deep concrete threshold that she cannot cross – or allow visitors to cross – without her 70-year-old husband’s permission. He is at work. Her three-year-old son plays behind her and she insists she married at 18 – which makes her 21 now – but her neighbours all say she was 14. “I accepted the older man to help my family as there were four other children and my parents are very poor. I am quite content and happy to have sacrificed myself for my family.”

Next door is Etab, 19. She has two children and has returned to stay with her despairing mother Nearnat, 42, her ageing father and her three siblings.

“We thought by marrying her we would get her a better life,” said Nearnat. “Now she is divorced because he was a bad man. She refuses to get married again because then her ex-husband would take the children and now her younger sister is begging me not to go ahead with her marriage. I regret that my daughter was married young because now if she leaves the house her reputation will be ruined. The community all tease me.”

Outside in the street a group of young men explain why they want to marry young brides. “Children need to have their rights but also you want to marry a girl who is much younger so she will stay young and beautiful when you are old. Also you can control her better and make sure she is not one of these girls who goes around wanting to be harassed,” said Abdel Rahman, 17. His friend Youssef, 20, agrees. “There are many girls who just want to be harassed, walking around in the streets with their eyes uncovered.”

Their views are not a surprise to Mona Hussein Wasef, 26, who works for Plan Egypt in Cairo. “For 18 days we were in Tahrir Square, side by side, men and women, educated and uneducated, rich and poor. Never have I felt so much solidarity. I was Egypt, we were all Egypt, fighting for freedom, shoulder to shoulder,” she said. She is too fearful to attend any political demonstrations these days.

“Now we have never been so far apart, men and women. In such a short time, such a gulf. Now we are fighting just for the right to walk down the street without being assaulted. It is so hard, so shocking. To see the rights we had being ripped away and lost in the power struggle. To see us go backwards.”


Rasmia Ahmed Emam was 17 when she was married to a 50-year-old stranger.

“My family is a big one so I had to sacrifice to support them. My dad went to a marriage broker to find a rich husband for me and she told us she had a Saudi man. He came and seemed to like me and gave my parents the money to build a roof on our house.”

But the desperation of poor families combined with the acceptance of child marriage has created opportunities for unscrupulous marriage brokers trading young girls to sex tourists. Rasmia thought she was getting married but in fact she was kept in a hotel room for two weeks before “her husband” went home.

“I felt insulted, scared. I had a nervous breakdown. My father went to the broker but we had no proof of the marriage. She offered to marry me again. I refused. All my neighbours knew I was a prostitute, all my friends abandoned me. My future is destroyed. Now three girls in my street have been Saudi wives. All men are liars.”

The phenomenon is becoming increasingly common in Cairo, says Mohammad Gazer, who has set up a charity, ACT, to warn families. “The taxi drivers bring men from the airport to the brokers. These girls are being traded and trafficked and dumped back home, their lives ruined.

“It is becoming clearer and clearer to Saudi men and other tourists that Egypt is the place for child marriage, for ignoring girls’ and women’s rights. It has got worse since the revolution and keeps getting worse every day.”


Libya: A guarantee of equality has been removed from the new constitution written after the revolution in 2011. There has been a rise in sexual assaults on the streets. Amnesty International claims discrimination against women “remains in law and practice”.

Yemen: Women were prominent during the 2011 uprisings but demonstrators today segregate themselves by gender. Discrimination is still enshrined in law. A quota of 30% for women in jobs in state agencies has been proposed but not yet debated. Child marriage remains legal with 52% of women marrying under 18.

Morocco: Reforms promised by King Mohammed VI are inching forward. A law that allows rapists to escape jail if they marry their victim is expected to be amended this year. Child marriage is illegal but has been on the rise over the last two years and there are moves to reduce the legal age from 18 to 16. There is only one female minister.

Tunisia: Women’s legal rights have not changed since the revolution in 2010-11 but it took street protests before the new constitution was rewritten to enshrine full equality. The ruling Islamist Ennahda party has 42 women among its 89 MPs and only 3% of teenage girls are married. Some are worried about a rise in hardline conservatism.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.