Egyptian regime 'going after youth and rights organizations'

Anti-torture center co-founder discusses women and military rule

22 January, 11:26

    Magda Adly, co-founder of El Nadeem Center Magda Adly, co-founder of El Nadeem Center

    (by Shelly Kittleson) (ANSAmed) - CAIRO - In a clinic providing psychological support for victims of torture, tucked away in a side street downtown, medical doctor and human rights defender Magda Adly spoke to ANSAmed about an Egypt back under military rule and the situation of women therein. A co-founder in 1993 and current director of the Al Nadeem Center for the Psychological Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, Adly was herself subjected to brutal treatment at the hands of a member of the security apparatus in 2008, when she was attacked by police officer and suffered a fractured shoulder, head injuries and loss of consciousness for thirty minutes on leaving a courtroom after attending a trial on a torture case. She has also been subjected to arbitrary detention and harassment over the years.

    Adly said that as far as the situation of women is concerned, she has seen ''no change. We still do not have a law that criminalizes violence against women in the family. And sexual violence is increasing.'' For example, some ''186 cases of sexual assault and rape were documented in Tahrir Square'' during the protests between June 28 and July 7, 2013, she noted.

    ''All evidence points to their having been politically motivated.'' Though the new constitution does include an article explicitly obliging the State to ensure that women are not discriminated against, Adly expressed doubt as to whether there would be ''the political will to implement this in the near future''.

    ''Of course it was worse during Morsi's time, in terms of violence towards women,'' she said. ''The Muslim Brotherhood were very, very aggressive when speaking about women's rights.

    When we spoke about harassment, they wanted girls to be punished. You were, as a woman, responsible for any crime that happened to you.'' ''But to get this article into the constitution,'' she said, ''women's groups have been working very, very hard for a long time.'' El Nadeem coordinated the first field study ever in Egypt (1994-1995) about the prevalence of violence against women in the country. In the year 2000, the organization was instrumental in getting women the right to request fast-track divorces. It also struggled to get female genital mutilation outlawed - a success wrought in 2007 - and managed to bring down the rates of it. The 2008 Demographic and Health Survey of Egypt reported that 91.1% of women aged 15-49 had undergone FGM, compared with 96% of those age 15-30 in 1995. Adly and the center have long worked to make domestic violence a crime, drafting legislative proposals and engaging in discussions for years, but to no avail. ''Men get sentenced to perhaps a few months for violently, repeatedly beating and seriously injuring their wives'' - if the case ever even gets to court - ''while if a man had done the same to another man, he would have got years in jail.'' During its time in power, the Brotherhood expressed its support for a raft of regressive, repressive policies towards women - lowering of the legal age at which women can be married, stricter laws governing divorce, and a lifting of the ban on female genital mutilation. However, Adly said that ''I am not comfortable about the level of violence against the Muslim Brotherhood. In ideological terms they are against me and I am against them. But violence is violence and terrorist groups will probably begin taking revenge.'' ''And after attacking, killing, kidnapping, and putting Muslim Brotherhood supporters in jail, now the regime are going after the human rights organizations and the youth groups, '' she said.

    ''Mahienour and Hassan Mustafa, Alaa Abdul Fattah, Ahmed Douma - they were the 'flags' '' of the revolution,'' she said, ''two years back. Now they are in jail.'' Mahienour Al-Massry, an Alexandria-based lawyer known for her work for the rights of detainees, in labor movements and on behalf of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Egypt, was sentenced in absentia in early January to two years in jail for violating a recent law against unauthorized protests. ANSAmed was told by one of her close associates that she is currently changing her place of residence frequently to avoid arrest.

    Alaa Abdel Fattah, well-known blogger and political activist and son of the founder of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, is in prison for allegedly organizing a political protest. Ahmed Douma, another prominent blogger and activist, was sentenced on December 22 to three years in prison with hard labour and a EGP 50,000 fine for taking part in protests.

    Adly said that pressure on NGOs had increased over the past three months, and noted a December raid on the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), in which a number of staff members were arrested and computers confiscated.

    On the issue of torture, Adly said that ''inside jail cells, the use of torture is perhaps the same as it was under Morsi, but the violence in the streets has become worse. It has become very easy to shoot people in the street.'' She noted that, now, ''they shoot to hit people's heads. Not legs, not at a car.

    These Mubarak police, the majority of those who killed protestors - they're still there.'' ''I cannot speak to this government, because I am against what they did. It's as simple as that.'' ''A few months and we'll have parliamentary elections. If we need any laws, we can wait. But to cooperate with this government, I feel this would be wrong.'' On the heels of a January 14-15 constitutional referendum brooking no dissent, Adly said that ''we are already losing, because there is a huge polarization. If you are not with (Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces) Sisi, then you are with Muslim Brotherhood. They cannot understand that you are against violence against anyone, period.'' ''I cannot say that I expect a good future for women under this regime.'' (ANSAmed).

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