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The Jasmine Thuggery

A constellation of Egypt's girls, a bunch of jasmine flowers, all in their teens, were yesterday cramped inside a cage to be tried, and for what? For thuggery. The crime weapons found on them were nothing but "leaflets promoting the ideas of banned groups, 2 red coloured stickers with the word 'leave' inscribed on them, stickers bearing the emblem of Rabia and a brick, that is a small stone."


They were 21 teenage girls. So young, they were detained while demonstrating peacefully in one of the protest activities. They were hoisting Rabia yellow emblems. The charges made against them included: the destruction of public properties, in reference to a residential block located in a street quite distant from the site where they were arrested. Other charges included: The perpetration of acts of violence and inciting violence.

The girls belong to a movement known as "7 a.m.", a youth movement that denounces detentions and murders. All the detainees were Egyptian girls. There was not a single foreigner among them. Their ages ranged from 16 to 20 years except for two who were mothers. Only eight of the girls are affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood. All of them are top achieving students who are renowned for their exemplary conduct and high moral standard. The detainees included engineer Ala' Al-Iraqi, a world renowned expert in graphics, and engineer Rawdah Shalabi, a graduate of nuclear engineering and the designer of the first miniature nuclear reactor.

Among the detainees was also Muna Maher Elbeltagi, who is the niece of Muslim Brotherhood leader Dr. Muhammad Elbeltagi and the cousin of Asma Elbeltagi who was murdered during the storming of the protest camp of the supporters of elected President Mohammad Morsi at Rabia Al-Adawiyah Square in Cairo.

According to a testimony by human rights activist Haytham Abu Khalil, the detained girls were subjected to different forms of torture, humiliation and abuse from the moment they were arrested until they were locked up inside Damanhoor's infamous Al-Ab'adiyah Prison. He also said that the girls were beaten with rifle butts, that some of them were dragged on the ground along Port Said Street and that while inside prison they were subjected to a humiliating body search. In addition, detainees were denied access to washrooms from 8 pm until 10 am every day until human rights activists intervened and secured them access.

A campaign posted by activists on Avaaz.org website has appealed to international organisations to pressure the Egyptian government into releasing the detained girls. According to the petition "police forces in the morning of Thursday 31 October attacked a peaceful protest staged by a group of girls in Alexandria to condemn detentions. The police arrested and detained 22 girls, issuing charges against them afterwards. The charges included: promoting the ideas of a terrorist group, possessing leaflets, exercising terror against the people and disturbing peace and public security. It is worth noting that nothing was found on the girls apart from 22 stickers with the Rabia emblem inscribed on them."

A relative of one of the girls commented on what he saw inside the court saying: "Imagine, we were standing watching how defendants accused of prostitution, drug trafficking and murder were being cleared and sent home while our girls who aspire to live in dignity and who are top achievers in their studies and memorise the Qur'an, their crimes appeared graver than those who were dealing in drugs."

No words can well describe such a fiasco.

SOURCE: Al-Dustour Amman, Jordan, 28 November 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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