Egypt: 'Virginity test' case postponed, victim applauded as hero

Samira Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Egyptian suing the military for allegedly subjecting her to an invasive "virginity test" stands in front of graffiti celebrating her efforts in Cairo, November 2011.
Amina Ismail

CAIRO — The ruling on Samira Ibrahim’s case against the military for forcing her to undergo a “virginity test” while in military detention in March, has been postponed to December 27.

In an effort to officially ban the practice of coerced virginity checks, Ibrahim and her lawyers had taken the case to the State Council’s administrative court.
Ibrahim says she was expecting the postponement. “The state will keep dragging this out,” she said. “They want me to give up and drop the case.”

But Ibrahim is determined in her fight for justice. “What happened to me can still happen to any other girl,” Ibrahim told GlobalPost.

Along with 17 other women, Ibrahim was arrested by military police on March 9 during a sit-in in Tahrir Square. Several girls have since come forward and said that they were beaten, given electric shocks, and subjected to a forced virginity test inside the military prison. Ibrahim was the only woman to take a step further and pursue legal action against her abusers.

A thinner Ibrahim was back in Tahrir Square in yet another sit-in on Wednesday after spending weeks in her hometown of Sohag in Upper Egypt. “I have been too worried about the case to eat,” she admitted. “The stress has been overwhelming.”

Upon arriving in Cairo ahead of the scheduled ruling on her case, Ibrahim was surprised to find that local support for her has significantly increased. A march of solidarity had been planned for her, and protesters came up to her to express their admiration for her bravery in deciding to stand up against the military.

The bigger surprise, however, was a graffiti mural of her face along with words of respect and support for her.

“At first, I just saw ‘Samira Ibrahim’ written on the wall, and I immediately thought there must be someone else who has the same name as me,” Ibrahim laughed.  “Then I saw the rest of the mural and I could not believe my eyes.”

Ibrahim is depicted next to Aliaa Elmahdy, who made worldwide headlines for posting nude photos of herself on her blog as part of an effort she said is “echoing screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.”

The graffiti ironically depicts the two girls next to each other, stating that Ibrahim — who was forced to undress in front of soldiers and undergo a forced virginity test — received little media coverage or global interest, while El Mahdy — who willingly shed her clothes — has been bombarded with attention and “received over three million [internet page] hits and no less than 50 articles.”

The irony was not lost on Ibrahim, who gave a girlish smile and said, “I really like her red hairband. Do you know where I can buy one for myself?”

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