Translating Words, Interpreting Events

More Evidence of Egyptian Police Stripping Women Naked?

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Published in Jihad Watch

We all remember the international uproar that erupted when, during a clash between police and protesters in Egypt, the former beat and partially stripped to her bra a female protester (subsequently known as the “Blue Bra Woman”).

Still image from video

Still image from video: Woman covers her face after taking bra off; arm of man slapping her in mid air.

An older video which purports to show an Egyptian officer ordering a woman to take off all her clothes, is even worse, and has sparked new debate. For the stripping is not a product of haste, blind-rage, or chaos—as apologists for the Blue Bra Woman incident argue—but is deliberate, methodical, and sadistic.

According to a new report appearing yesterday on El Bashayer, Mohsin Bahsani, president of an Egyptian organization called Legal Assistance for Human Rights, has brought this video to the spotlight, saying he is preparing to submit a formal complaint to the Attorney General, asking for legal action to be taken, including identifying the perpetrators.

The video was earlier aired on the popular Egyptian program “90 Minutes” (click here; clip appears from around minute 1:45 to minute 4). It appears to be taped inside an apartment, where a man, dressed like an officer, threatens and slaps a woman around, bullying her to take off all her clothes. He constantly commands her to “strip” and orders the others in the room to keep the door closed.

First he gives her a hard, swift slap across the face when she refuses to take off her top; then she takes it off but he orders her to take her bra off as well. After protesting, she complies, but then covers her face for shame, all while sobbing; he yells at her not to cover her face and gives her another hard slap. Then he resumes ordering her to continue stripping, i.e., take her pants—and presumably underwear, based on precedent—off. The video then cuts off.

The focus of 90 Minutes was whether this video is authentic and whether it can be proven that the man is a police officer. One of the guests, a journalist, seemed sure, pointing out that the man was wearing a holster with a gun in it (in Egypt, only officers are permitted to carry firearms). Likewise, the woman initially objected to being forced to strip naked, arguing “Are you going to drag me outside naked?” implying that she was being arrested and taken into custody; and after she takes her bra off, as the man orders her to continue stripping and she refuses, he threatens by saying, “Okay, off we go to the ministry [of justice],” again, suggesting he is an officer making an arrest.

The one main oddity of the video is that, towards the end of the clip, someone in the apartment leaps in front of the camera making a goofy face. Though one might argue that this takes away from the seriousness, and thus authenticity, of the situation, in fact, the counter argument can be made—that the jumping fool actually further demonstrates the authenticity of the video: If those making the tape were intentionally trying to frame Egypt’s police force—which the host of 90 Minutes offered as a possibility—surely they would not compromise their efforts by such a silly stunt in front of the camera.

A more likely interpretation is that the man is, in fact, an officer, who is at the apartment of friends or family, where he is doing them a “favor”— abusing his authority, “flexing his muscle” as it were, against this woman whom his buddies, for whatever reason, have targeted as needing to be threatened, shaken down, and shamed—all while some in the apartment goof around, apparently because such spectacles are not out of the ordinary.

Incidentally, this video was taken when Hosni Mubarak was in power, before the Revolution—a reminder thatbrutality by authority figures in Islamic Egypt is not a product of this or that regime, but of culture; a reminder that the beating and stripping of the Blue-Bra woman, which caused much international outrage, may well be the tip of the iceberg.