Women have a Lot to Offer

Virginity Tests Victim Speaks at AUC Developers Inc. ‘Freedom Week’

By: Reem Abou Refaie

Samira Ibrahim speaks at Freedom Week. Photo Courtesy of Yara El Razaz

“Women have social and political rights worth fighting for”, says Samira Ibrahim, a victim of virginity tests in Egypt, on Thursday Mar. 29 at an awareness campaign hosted by AUC Developers Inc.

Ibrahim, a 24-year-old political activist from Upper Egypt, was invited by Developers Inc. as part of their most recent awareness campaign entitled “Freedom Week”, in collaboration with Heya: the Women’s Initiative, to share her experience with the AUC community.

This particular campaign consists of a four-day series of events that started on Mar. 28 and is scheduled to end on Apr. 2. It aims at raising awareness amongst the AUC community regarding various freedom-related issues that the Egyptian society currently faces.

Nouran Ghannam, a political science junior and the head of awareness at Developers Inc., expressed her satisfaction with the turnout. “Human rights is a vital topic considering what Egypt is going through, and therefore [sic], I was glad to see people turning up to share their thoughts regarding women’s rights in light of Ibrahim’s experience,” explains Ghannam to The Independent.

Ibrahim began the discussion by informing the audience of the detailed circumstances through which she came to be politically involved. “I was only 15 years old when I was first arrested by the police as a result of protesting in solidarity with Palestine in the 2003 [sic], and was eventually accused of incitement,” explains Ibrahim.

For Ibrahim, the virginity tests and the frequent sexual harassment incidents that take place during the Tahrir protests, as well as in regular rallies, are organized efforts by the authorities to deter people from participating in the revolution.

“In Egypt, targeting women does not have an exclusive effect on females alone, but on the contrary, men are affected as well,” states Ibrahim.

She further explains that men feel the duty to protect the respective female members of the society. So, when the women, are subjected to torture, rape, sexual assault and, most importantly, virginity testing, the men experience a sense of failure and shame as a result of not being able fulfill their natural role towards the women.

Ibrahim believes that women had an influential function; unfortunately, they are now completely excluded from the political arena. “There are only nine female parliament members, which doesn’t reflect the crucial role that women play in society in general, and in the transitional period in particular,” she explained.

However, Ibrahim stresses on the fact that women have to keep fighting for their rightful place within the Egyptian society. “Women have a lot to offer, but the society lays many obstacles in their way which makes their journey long and dreadful,” adds Ibrahim.

She then shed some light on the importance of women’s organizations in reshaping the urban fabric. She notes that we have plenty of organizations, but they are all located in the main cities and are unable to penetrate the rest of the country.

“The key to solving this problem would be through the formation of informal neighborhood groups that will have access to women and will not require complicated organizational skills,” explains Ibrahim.

Ibrahim concluded by stating that the authorities, as well as the parliament, are currently attacking women. “Women fought for their rights before, and so can we,” exclaims Ibrahim.