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Tahrir’s Tattered Trophy

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Philip Whitfield

Philip Whitfield

By Philip Whitfield

How long would it take you to vent your spleen? Me? An hour a column if I’m not distracted. This one’s been stewing, nay boiling, for months.

The headline should have been The Rape of Egypt, but I toned it down not to offend the squeamish. If you don’t care to read about lurid sex, turn the page.

A little while ago my best friend, an Egyptian professional in Cairo, told me what happened to his wife. I didn’t write it up, but I asked him if I may do so now and he agreed. He refreshed my mind as to the details.

I’m only going to give you an edited version, then tell you why the rapists are at large, and then suggest what has to be done to stop it.

My friend, his wife and another couple took an Egyptian woman living abroad to Tahrir Square to join in the celebrations and to salute the revolution. They’re all middle-class, successful people; parents in respectable jobs like lawyering and teaching.

They walked, singing, across the 6th of October Bridge in a jubilant mood as the surge of people dissipated into the throng in the square. A few minutes later the five of them noticed a ring of about 20 men, aged between about 18 and, like themselves, mid-30s

The ring tightened in on the five and cut them out of the shoulder-to-shoulder celebrators. Moving as a sheepdog does to a shepherd’s instructions, the 20 divided into five groups of four. They then cut the five people into three groups: two, two and one (the visitor). The five were soon separated by three metres.

Then two ringleaders divided the two couples and the five became five singles, terrified and shouting for help. Nobody nearby moved a muscle as the touching and feeling started.

One of the five is a huge, burly man way over six feet tall, who could have been a bare-knuckle boxer. Seeing his wife’s distress he launched at the two trying to pen him in and attacked them with his fists and feet so hard they fell to ground, weeping.

He lifted up his wife, put her under one arm and headed towards the visitor (he couldn’t see the other couple). Seeing the state of their fellow captors, the single woman’s captors fled.

He picked her up under the other arm and carried them bodily to the fence opposite the mosque, across from Mugama. There they were taken into safekeeping by women who are known nationally. They told him their helpers had a tent in the square where rape victims were being taken. It was happening on a minute-by minute-basis, they said.

The burly man headed straight to the tent. There he found his two friends.

I am not going to describe their condition. Their jeans and leather jackets had been ripped to shreds with knives, torn from their skin until they were naked. They were raped incessantly. The women in the tent had covered them with blankets.

The burly man hoisted them in a firemen’s lift and carried them to re-join the couple, now speechless, drinking tea by the fence opposite Mugama.

Each of the five people involved have had their lives turned on their heads as a result: the couples divorced; the visitor is estranged from her Egyptian family. None of their children has an inkling why.

I’m not professionally qualified to explain either, so listen to Egyptians who are.

They tell me there are two reasons for this horrendous situation.

Sexual repression: these men haven’t a cat’s chance in hell of raising the money to buy a house, etc., and get married so they take sex whenever they can grab it.

Social mores: in their eyes, sin doesn’t come into it. But by-the-by, forcing sex on a non-Muslim, they claim, is permissible. It is, they believe, the rights of the victors in any war to ravish the spoils—taking conquered women away to have as they will.

God created man to be pleased and women to please men. That’s an archaic, scandalous piece of logic that is used to recruit youths to detonate themselves in crowds. They actually believe dozens of virgins await the ascent.

Uncomfortable as that all sounds, it is what these Cairo cannibals believe.

Because sex is a no-no to talk about by parents or teachers in most of Egyptian society, these depraved men gawk for hours at porn on their computers. Aroused, they seek vile violence. That’s how the ring, known as The Trophy Hunters, spends its free time—which is all their time.

If this is the society you approve of, then be quiet about all this. Watch Egypt’s cities descend into the black holes of depravity. I’ve been there, seen the decrepit existence young teenage prostitutes endure.

I’ve lived close enough to the Chicago ghettos to see the results of black flight, when anyone with half a brain quits for the suburbs to escape the drugs, rape, pillage and murder that takes over the leaderless vacuum on the South Side.

Which, I think, brings me to the point. The longer these darkest days in Egypt’s history are allowed to continue in an effectively leaderless Egypt, the longer the nightmare molests and contaminates dignity.

You want a champion? There are millions of them. They are the decent women of Egypt. Surely there is an Aung San Suu Kyi among them? A Hillary Clinton might do. Or a soft-spoken Mother Theresa. Perhaps a Maggie Thatcher or a mail-fisted Angela Merkel

They don’t necessarily have to take office. All they need to do is to tell the truth about this despicableness. Go on the BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera. Michele Obama watches them. She’ll tell her husband what to do with Egypt.

Eleanor Roosevelt was such a champion, yielding influential power more effectively in many ways than her husband, the President of the United States. She said: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.”

As Socrates pled: “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realise how little we understand about life, ourselves and the world around us.”

Now you know the truth of Tahrir Square: a dream begat a blight; a shame shammed by silent witnesses; a corrosion on Egypt’s adorable children, who are not blind to what they see and what they see is their parents condoning rape.

Morsy had his chance. Now he has the freedom to roam the capitals of the world and hobnob with the greats flannelling them with inanity. But Morsy and his crowd can’t even walk the streets of their own capital city; they’d be lynched.

Allow me to violate Egypt’s most loved sentiment: If I weren’t an Egyptian I would have wished to be (Mustafa Kamil Pasha). I’m not an Egyptian; I wish I were, if only to stand in Tahrir and excoriate the vermin.

 

Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator.

  • Theresa Mallinson

    I’m really encouraged to see that the topic of sexual violence has received so much coverage in the Egyptian media recently – well done for contributing to this phenomenon!

    Another thing: it seems really petty to pick on spelling when this is such an important column, but my inner pedant won’t be silenced… So please note that “Mother Teresa” is spelt without an “h”. #trustmeiknowthisone

  • Mohanad

    A very well-written piece shedding more light on the sexual harassment phenomenon in Egypt. Philip, you don’t have to be Egyptian to help fight this. You certainly did your part by simply writing this story.


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