The charges added new tension to Egypt's presidential election campaign, just two weeks before the voting. More than a dozen women were among more than 300 protesters detained following a protest outside the Defence Ministry in Cairo last weekend. In charges that recalled dark incidents from earlier protests, rights activist Aida Seif al-Dawla said that female prison guards sexually assaulted some women by inspecting their vaginas under the pretext of searching for drugs.
"This is a sexual assault," activist Seif al-Dawla said. "The women are injured, physically and emotionally." Some of the released female detainees also said they were verbally and sexually abused by troops after they were detained. One of them, Aya Kamal, testified yesterday before the parliament's human rights committee about abuses as she was being arrested. Kamal told the committee in the televised testimony that she was holed up in a mosque to escape troops charging in to break up the protest.
She said soldiers stormed the mosque and then took turns insulting, groping, smacking and spitting at her and other female detainees. She said male detainees were also beaten and threatened with sexual assault. One soldier hit her with a club on the head, knocking her unconscious for a few seconds, while another tried to remove her head veil, which many conservative Muslim women in Egypt wear. At one military facility, Kamal said soldiers celebrated the arrival of detainees.
"They insulted us girls, they opened the windows (of the van) and tried to reach out to touch our bodies and harass us. We were threatened with sexual assault, and we were threatened that if any one of us opened her mouth, she would be thrown to the soldiers outside, and she knows what would happen to her," she told the committee, choking back tears.