Egypt's Women against the Coup movement has revealed that the authorities arrested 200 women in December and January and accused the interior ministry of torture and sexual abuse. "We registered the arrest of 200 women since the ratification of the Demonstration Act, which requires prior permission from the interior ministry for any demonstration and imposes severe retribution against dissidents," said a report by the group.
According to Turkish news agency Anadolu, the women's movement pointed out that female students from Al-Azhar University top the list of prisoners, which includes girls under 15 years old and elderly ladies of 60-plus.
The movement's report noted that most arrests took place on the last Friday of December when 40 women were taken into custody. "Criminal sentences handed down in absentia started to appear in January," the report said. "Six female students from Al-Azhar were sentenced to one year in prison and six from Nasser City were sentenced to five years."
Women against the Coup said that violations against the women prisoners "started from the minute that they were arrested"; the report also uses the term "kidnapped". "They were beaten by batons, their scarfs were removed and they were pulled by the hair; clothes were ripped off and they were sexually molested by officers who touched their private parts," it alleged.
When the prisoners arrived at police stations they were obliged to strip off their clothes and, again, police officers touched their private parts and beat them before putting them in "inappropriate" cells. "After they were taken to Al-Qanater Prison," claims the report, "the women faced virginity tests and were mixed with common criminals, who also attacked them."
The UK-based Arab Organisation for Human Rights said that it had received complaints from the families of 12 students imprisoned in Egypt. "The complaints indicated that the ladies were beaten, insulted and sexually abused by soldiers or policemen when they were arrested."
Egypt's Deputy Interior Minister for Western Cairo, Brigadier Ali Damardash, denied the accusations. Speaking to Anadolu, he said: "I do not understand the violations it (AOHR) is speaking about. This is completely untrue… Egyptian prisons follow a system that respects international human rights… There is no basis for all the rumours about torture or violations in the Egyptian prisons."
It is worth noting that many domestic and international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have issued dozens of reports describing the serious violations taking place inside Egyptians prisons. Human rights activists are denied permission to visit the prisons or meet the prisoners.