Inaugural celebrations remind Egypt of a deep-rooted problem


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After Sisi’s landslide victory, many Egyptians took to the streets in celebration, both after the official results came out, and also after his inauguration. During the inaugural celebrations in Tahrir Square, however, there were at least 5 incidents of sexual harassment. One of the victims was a 19-year-old girl, and a graphic video of her bloodied naked body was posted to YouTube, prompting waves of criticism of a society plagued with a history of sexual violence. During an on-ground report of the incident, one news reporter was heard laughing, saying, “they’re just happy!” in reference to the men who gang-raped her. The reporter has been suspended.

Other state television channels tried to play down the issue, politicizing the sexual harassment as deliberate attempts by opposition to “ruin the happiness,” and trying instead to focus attention on the celebration of Sisi.

President Sisi visited the young woman in the hospital, with a bouquet of red roses and a camera crew. He apologized to her several times, and the visit was broadcast on TV (with her face pixelated out). Some said she should be honored to receive a visit from the president “given her social class,” while others called Sisi a “true romantic.” The police officer who helped pull her out of the mob has been interviewed and praised as a hero, but the actual issue of sexual harassment hasn’t received nearly as much coverage. It’s true Sisi recently passed an anti-sexual harassment law, but activists say it’s still too vague. This is to be expected of course, from the man who strongly defended virginity tests on female protestors just months ago.

There is a “Walk Like an Egyptian Woman” protest scheduled for next Saturday to call for an end to sexual harassment in Egypt.

In other news, a recent Al-Jazeera documentary sheds light on the depth of corruption on Egypt’s business elite and the level of their cooperation with Israeli forces. It focuses on just how ripped off the people of Egypt have been with regard to gas shortages, and how the Egyptian military and a few elite businessmen cut secret deals with Israel and the US, selling Israel gas at unbelievably low prices while leaving many Egyptians with nothing. The gas shortages in 2012 were staged by the military to portray Morsi’s presidency as more inefficient than it really was, but now, in 2014, the gas shortage is real. To secure his presidency, however, Sisi will have to depend on Israel now that they have found an off-shore oil and gas field.