Egyptian Policeman Receives Life Sentence for Raping Disabled Girl in Police Station

egyptian trial, photo by middle east voices

egyptian trial, photo by middle east voices

CAIRO, Egypt - According to the activist Engy Ghozlan of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR), nearly 200,000 rapes occur annually in Egypt. This figure was presented in response to a 2008 U.N. report which quoted Egypt's Interior Ministry's figure which was significantly less. (Source: ECWR).

As in many countries rapes in Egypt are one of the most under-reported crimes, and until recently, many perpetrators weren't brought to trial because of lack of interests or cultural biases which blamed the woman for allowing herself to be raped.

In August 2014, a 17-year-old mentally disabled teenage girl walked into the Imbaba Police Station in Cairo's low-income neighbourhood of Imbaba to report her abduction by two men earlier that day. Instead of receiving just consideration of her charges, or even for the police to initiate an investigation, Khaled Abdel-Rahman Mohamed, the policeman on duty, inexplicably locked the teenager a cell.

Other female prisoners confirmed the testimony of the girl in which she stated that she was subsequently taken forcibly from the cell by Mohamed ostensibly for further questioning. It is alleged that he dragged her by her hair and raped her in the corner of the station. Two women in an adjacent jail cell watched the assault through a crack in the cell door. A camera also bore silent witness to the girl's ordeal and was crucial to proving the guilt of the officer.

Egyptian law permits rapists to be sentenced to death for the rape of any female under the age of 18; however, on 7 June 2015 the court sentenced Mohamed to life in prison.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Retailer, Supports Woman Wearing Hijab

stranger 209 nada, photo by peter grifoni

stranger 209 nada, photo by peter grifoni

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ruled in favor of Samantha Elauf in a suit against an Abercombie & Fitch store in Oklahoma over the discrimination she experienced in 2008. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought the suit on behalf of Elauf who had sought employment with the popular retail chain as a sales person. According to reports she interviewed well, but wasn’t hired because managers viewed her head scarf “hijab” as contrary to the company’s image.

In its defense, the company said it had a standard “look policy” for its sales staff that did not include wearing a head scarf. It also said Elauf had never informed it of her religion nor of her need for accommodation based on her faith. This specious argument was as dubious as those practiced by employers pre-Civil Rights America during which African-American candidates were denied jobs by stating that they “didn’t fit in” or that “the customers may feel unsafe.”

In fact, Scalia described the case of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. Abercrombie as “easy” because the store managers knew or “at least suspected” Elauf wore the head scarf for religious reasons. Her hijab was as obvious as the color of an African-American’s skin. In an age with ubiquitous and easy access to information through the internet, one would have to live under a rock to claim no knowledge of the religious significance of this type of head covering for Muslim women.

Justice Scalia stated that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 puts the legal burden on employers not to discriminate. It gives “favored treatment” to religion, and “religious practice is one of the protected characteristics … that must be accommodated.” The majority ruled that it did not matter whether Elauf informed the company of her need for religious accommodation as long as the desire to avoid making such an accommodation was part of the company’s action. (Source: L.A. Times)

This favorable ruling is a win for not only observant Muslim women, but also Orthodox Jewish women who are also required to cover their heads while in public. This ruling is also significant in that it can provision additional freedoms for observant religious people like Muslims and Jews who abstain from work on holy days of the year, many of which conflict with employer work schedules.

“This case dramatically changes the standards that apply to employers because it removes the requirement that an employee or applicant request a religious accommodation, if the employer’s motive is later deemed a violation of Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act, said Michael Droke, a Seattle lawyer.

This ruling sets the U.S. apart from the European Union. Many countries in the E.U. have enacted increasingly discriminatory laws aimed at Muslims, and because of increased secularism it has also given rise to new levels of anti-Semitism. Notably, France, which has sought to keep religion out of public spaces and schools, in 2010 law banned the wearing of full-faced veils in public, and last year a French appeals court upheld the dismissal of a Muslim day-care employee for refusing to remove her head scarf at work.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ruled that employers may not “refuse to hire” or otherwise discriminate against someone because of their “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” And the law says religion “includes all aspects of religious observance or practice as well as belief.”

A federal judge ruled Elauf was a victim of illegal discrimination, and a jury awarded her $20,000 in compensation.

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
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The Radical Feminist, Afghanistan's Sara Bahayi

afghanistans northern militia, photo courtesy of faculty of journalism moscow state university ap photo van sekretarev

afghanistans northern militia, photo courtesy of faculty of journalism moscow state university ap photo van sekretarev

AFGHANISTAN, Mazar-i-Sharif – Yesterday, U.S. citizens awoke to 'news reports' that a YouTube video of a dress that changed colors had received 25+ million hits. People spoke about it on elevators, argued their selection of colors in cafeterias, shared and watched the video on their iPhones, and an endless round of recaps flooded every local and national news outlet.

Concurrently, Americans awoke to the incredible story featured on the front page of the Washington Post about Sara Bahayi, the only female taxi cab driver in Afghanistan. This woman is the epitome of a radical feminist, but her story of courage and tenacity remained far from the topic of inane conversation.

Unlike the bra burning icons of the 60's who sought the opportunity to break through the glass ceiling in Corporate America and ascend to the vaulted ranks of male executives, or even those who just wanted to escape the ennui of their housewife status; Bahayi, 38, is one of a new breed of women who are risking their lives in pursuit of basic freedoms.

As Afghanistan's first and perhaps only female driver, Bahayi's life and those of her loved ones are in very real danger. Something that most women take for granted has become the focus of a feminist revolution in countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. It is easy to call yourself a feminist if you are safely ensconced in a political and social system which legislates equal rights protections, even if these protections are not always enforced.

It is quite another to seek equality in a society and culture in which women are considered chattel, a precept that is enforced by Taliban militia and other radicalized groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman, who at 15-years-old was shot in the head by an assassin and nearly died because of her efforts to lobby for the right for girls and women to get an education, is an example of the lengths to which extremists will go to reinforce their belief systems.

Bahayi has waged her quiet campaign of civil disobedience for 10-years driving a taxi through the streets of Mazar-i-Sharif. She has been threatened with grievous harm and even death, though she bravely takes the opportunity to talk to some of her male passengers to try and help them understand that driving a car even if it is a taxi, is not sacrilegious. However, most of her passengers are women who seem to feel more comfortable riding inside the car with a woman driver, and even in some cases riding in the front passenger seat.

Unlike the feature photo in which Burqa clad women are forced to ride in the open trunk of a car, Bahayi has literally taken control of destiny at the wheel of her taxi. According to the Washington Post, she earns roughly $10-20 she earns per day. As an unmarried, childless woman, she uses the money that she earns to help support 15 relatives. "She started working outside the home in the late '90s when her brother-in-law was killed by the Taliban; a male neighbor taught her to drive after Bahayi decided her high school teacher's salary was insufficient; she got her drivers license two years ago in a class of 30 students, all male, only nine of whom passed the test. When driving into Taliban-controlled areas, she sometimes disguises herself as male..."

Bahayi has waged a quiet revolution and it is nice to read that her inspirational story was brought to international attention. Reportedly she is in negotiations to open a dealership. Because of the complexity of property ownership in Afghanistan's patriarchal society, she will require the initial investment and auspices of male partners to launch her business. However, she has stated that once the business is established, she hopes to transform it into Afghanistan's first female-owned car dealership. Watch her tell her story in her own language.

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
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Saudi Arabia Grapples with Women's Right to Drive Within Existing Restrictions

SAUDI ARABIA - A common Western activity such as driving has been an issue for women in Saudi Arabia for ages. Although women over thirty have been allowed to drive, this right has been curtailed by the stringent restriction to which they are forced to adhere.

Currently, "Saudi Arabian laws" limit their freedom to drive outside of a proscribed schedule which prohibits them driving after 8:00 p.m. Also, an additional restrictive and seemingly punitive issue is that women who are driving are forbidden to wear make-up while operating the vehicle. One would presumably understand the restriction against distracted drivers using cell phones and other communication devices thus taking their attention away from the road, but the wearing of make-up does not seem to fall into this category as women are allowed to wear it in all other instances.

This matter came to the attention of the world because the consul of Saudi Arabia has put on the table for discussion the possibility of removing the time constraints, and also considering the option of allowing women older than 30-years-old to operate a vehicle during restricted hours. Though, these discussion are not open to the public, it seems that this is a growing necessity for a society that is increasingly mobile and where the use of a vehicle would greatly enhance the performance of such mundane duties such as grocery shopping, picking up children from school, etc.

Although the decision to reassess the restrictions imposed on women drivers seems precipitous, in fact women have been actively campaigning for this basic right to drive for years. The consul stated that there is the necessity to create a “female traffic department" in order to bring precise control over the matter, in case a car suffers some damage while being utilized by a woman. There are also restrictions when it comes to women interacting with men while driving. Though these discussion seem to be a recognition of the need for equal rights for women in terms of driving, the additional restriction makes us wonder if this response is a ploy to seemingly comply with women's rights group while in fact devaluing the struggle in which many women defied the laws, boldly driven their cars, and consequently suffered punishment.

Additionally, the existing restriction have resulted in a culture of families hiring drivers to transport women. But, what happens when the traditional family does not have the economic resources to hire someone? Women then are directly dependent of spouses, siblings, parents and even their children in order to accomplish their daily activities, and such restriction are unduly punitive for women who are in the lower classes. Thus, the current debate is considering the possibility that under certain conditions women might drive more days of the week during the hours between 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Restrictions regarding wearing make-up and interacting with men during the driving are not up for discussion and will likely remain in place.

According to The Associated Press, "There have been small, but increasingly bold protests by women who took to their cars in open defiance....over the past year despite the restrictions. The driving ban, which is unique in the world, was imposed because the kingdom's ultraconservative Muslim clerics say "licentiousness" will spread if women drive.”

A protest occurred last October when Saudi women drove around their neighborhoods and recorded themselves on videos which they then posted on social networks such as YouTube as a means to publicize their plight and reinforce their belief in the right to protest this unjust situation. Although there isn't a written law that limits schedules or outlines formal details on restrictions imposed on women driver, these unwritten cultural restrictions have been ubiquitously enforced, and punishments have varied between jail time or other sanctions.

In 2011 forty women protested against the driving ban and as a consequence one of them was sentenced to 10 lashes; however this barbaric punishment was subsequently overturned by the king. The revocation of this sentence can be viewed as an improvement since the situation has been discussed for years over what type of judgement should be meted out for women who break the de facto "driving ban" laws, and corporal punishment of women who are considered disobedient is actively practiced in other traditional cultures.

Since the consuls' discussion are private and there has been no indication of when an announcement of their decision will be made, women who have been demanding their right to drive continue to peacefully protest by driving despite these anachronistic traditions.

Laughter a Threat to Chastity? Yes, Declares Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister

turkey-bursa-two-muslim-women-laughing-photo-by-forest-gan.jpg

ANKARA, Turkey -- Chastity has long been a source of contention and in fact has often been used as a justification for the domination of women throughout the centuries in various parts of the world. It is another means by which some men seek to control women’s sexuality and reproductive freedom.

Though many people think of the issue of controlling women and forcibly “preserving” their chastity as a phenomenon unique to countries with emerging economies where young girls are routinely subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FMG), these practices have been imported to the U.K. and other E.U. nations with high immigrant populations.

However, the West is not without guilt as similar overt restrictions and unsanitary practices were routinely implemented in Europe during the 16th century when men made their wives wear ‘chastity’ belts to prevent sexual intercourse during their long absences at sea or war.

The history of women being controlled subtly and overtly is a never ending battle; however, this week the war for equality reached ridiculous lows when Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç, stated in a speech that “among other activities that women laughing in public somehow contributed to the moral turpitude of the nation.

During his 28 July 2014 speech which was given on Eid al-Fitr, the official end of the month-long Islamic celebration of Ramadan, “Arınç described his ideal of the chaste man or woman, saying they should both have a sense of shame and honor.” (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

This atavistic attitude at once casts sexuality as “unclean,” but also blames women for defiling themselves, a specious argument often used to justify rape, while also claiming that these 'loose' women constantly lure otherwise chaste men into debauchery and sin. In his speech, Arınç outlined his ideas of morality saying:

“Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”

These ideas are not Arınç’s alone, but are an outgrowth of the conservative tenor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of which he is a prominent member. The AKP has been in power since 2002, and in the intervening years has shepherded over a subtle but systematic erosion of women’s rights.

Unbeknownst to many in the West, “Turkey had a thriving women’s rights movement in the 1980s and 90s, but has recently experienced a back slide in progress. Violence against women has doubled over the past few years, only one third of women are employed, and the country rates almost dead last in gender equality in education, health, politics, and the economy.” (Source: Huffington Post)

Women’s rights are being eroded on all fronts from wage equality and reproductive rights in the United States, to FMG in Sub-Saharan Africa, to the 'One Child Policy' in China, to chastity requirements in restrictive Middle East nations. Though many in the West and East have greeted Arınç’s comments with derision and mockery, this is no laughing matter.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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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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Council Orders Indian Girl to be Raped as Punishment for Her Brother's Crime

through-the-veil-photo-by-joel-dousset.jpg

Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 00:58 p.m. DST, 15 July 2014

Sarpanch Pinky Devi with her kid. Kabza Gram Panchayat, District Dungarpur, Rajasthan

SWANG GULGULIA DHOURA, India — A 13-year-old girl in a rural Indian village was condemned to be raped by the head of her village as a punishment for her older brother. The girl's brother, according to CNN, attempted to rape a married woman, and as his punishment, the woman's husband was ordered to rape the man's younger sister.

The woman that was allegedly attacked, Suguna Devi, is the daughter of the village's headman, Ghosal Pasi, The New York Times reported. She was groped by the teenage girl's older brother, Harendra Pasi, after he entered her hut in the night after drinking a "kind of rice beer." He was thwarted by the woman's husband, Nakabandi Pasi, after her screams awoke the village.

The morning after the incident, the father of the teenage girl and the alleged assaulter went to Ghosal Pasi and asked them to reach some kind of terms. He says he told the head man, "My son did wrong, and we are willing to take the punishment. if you want to impose a punishment, then beat him," but he did not receive an answer from him.

Despite his efforts, the local council that afternoon convened to discuss the punishment for the attempted rape. The local council determined that the husband raping the teenage sister of his wife's attempted rapist would be retribution, despite the girl having no involvement in the case.

The local council that ordered the rape, known as panchayats in India, act as the judicial system for rural villages. The male-dominated council are highly ranked according to Indian caste governance and thus have the authority to punish indiscriminately. They are known in India to deliver harsh, medieval sentences. CNN says that some of their rulings include forcing women to marry their rapists, some brides as young as six, and ordering gang-rapes. In a culture where a woman is a man's property and her "honor" is her value, raping woman is seen as a severe punishment for men.

After the panchayat made the ruling, the teenage girl said that the wife and her husband came to her home. According to CNN, the girl told reporters that the wife, "dragged me out of my house. She handed me over to her husband and told him to take me away to a nearby forest and rape me." And he did.

The father of the girl, Munna Pasi said that no one from the village stepped in to help save his daughter. He told reporters, "My wife wept, but nobody listened. My daughter said, 'Save me, save me,' but nobody listened. All these people became blind when he was dragging my daughter away." A neighbor, Sunita Devi, and another woman heard the girl's screams did not step in claiming, "We did not know he was going to rape her."

However, the girl was raped by the husband of Suguna Devi in an attack that lasted forty-five minutes, according to The New York Times. They say she then limped an hour's distance to the nearest police station to report it. Since then police arrested the headman Ghosal Pasi and the husband of Suguna Devi in relation to the girl's rape and the girl's brother, Harendra Pasi, in connection with the attempted rape of Suguna Devi.

The children of the headman Ghosal Pasi, Suguna Devi and her brother Gupta Kumar continue to proclaim his innocence in ordering the rape of the young girl. Gupta Kumar says, "My father did not order anything. Out of anger my brother-in-law did this thing." While Suguna Devi promises that if the police release her father and Munna Pasi, the girl's father drops the charges then, "if something will happen, people will go to the police station."

Vinod Vishwakarma, head of an elected village council involved in this area is not so convinced that this incident will discredit the panchayat system. He tells The New York Times, "There is a practice here, to sort out matters themselves." Harkening back to the neighbors who did nothing, Vishwakarma says, "I spoke to some women, they said if something like this will happen in our village again we will oppose it. But when the girl tried to seek help from people, they turned away their faces. That's the fact."

One of those who is attempting to defy the panchayat system by pressing charges against the headman Ghosal Pasi is Munna Pasi, the girl's father. He is pressured by his village to drop the charges, but he stands firm declaring, " When this was done to my family and my daughter, nobody came forward to help us. Why should I be lenient to anybody?"

With mounting hostility from the other villagers for turning in their headman, district police have also placed two armed guards outside the girl's hut and politicians have come by offering small cash gifts and foodstuffs.

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