CAIRO: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the minister of defense and the chief of staff Wednesday visited “Ikram”, a 43-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted last week during celebrations in Tahrir Square.
Ikram is recovering at Helmiya Military Hospital, and Sisi gifted her a bouquet of red roses.
“I am here to say to you, and to every Egyptian woman, I am sorry. I apologize to all of you,” Sisi told Ikram in a video aired by state television.
Sisi assured Ikram that the State will take all possible actions and that the law will be firmly applied against her alleged assailants.
“I will not [just] talk to the justice or interior ministers… I say to every young officer: This cannot happen in Egypt ever again,” Sisi said. “I am saying to the judiciary, our honor is assaulted on the streets… this is unacceptable.”
“To every man with magnanimity, chivalry and gallantry: It is a disgrace that you let this happen, even if it is only one incident in all of Egypt,” Sisi continued.
Ikram told Sisi that such assaults are not random, and that perpetrators know how to circle victims and exactly what to do inside that circle. But Sisi said that it is still unacceptable even if it is random.
Ikram is being treated at the expense of the State and Sisi offered that she and her mother undertake “Umra” (a minor pilgrimage to Mecca) after her recovery at the expense of the State, presidential spokesperson Ihab Badawy said in a Wednesday press statement.
Sisi ordered Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to form a ministerial commission with representatives from Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Church to study the phenomena of sexual harassment. Its mission will be to determine the motives behind sexual harassment and set a national strategy to counter it with educational, religious, media, security and civil-institution cooperation, Badawy added.
Attorney General Hisham Barakat and Minister of Health Adel al-Adawy said Wednesday that they had opened extensive investigations into reports that several public hospitals refused to treat Ikram.
Soha Hosni, a friend of Ikram who was with her in Tahrir Square, told CBC channel Tuesday that they spent 12 hours in an ambulance looking for a hospital that would treat her friend’s injuries.
Hagar, Ikram’s 19-year-old daughter who was also sexually assaulted, will undergo a forensic medical examination since the investigation report said one of her attackers stubbed out a cigarette on her body while sexually assaulting her.
On CBC channel, Hosni claimed that a female doctor humiliated Hagar, disrespected her privacy and told her, “You better hope Sisi does something for you.” Hosni implied that the doctor was a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Barakat ordered investigations be rapid in all cases of sexual harassment all over the country.
“The public prosecution will not hesitate to take firm legal procedures to bring all those accused in incidents of harassment to justice until all women feel secure in society,” Barakat said in his statement.
Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb denounced the incident, saying that perpetrators lack shame, modesty, honor and regard for what God “made sanctified.”
Three defendants in custody face charges of forcible indecent assault, attempted rape, confinement and the physical torture of Ikram. Seven others were also arrested for similar attacks last Sunday.
Meanwhile, television anchor Maha Bahnassy was suspended Wednesday from Tahrir TV channel over comments many regarded as offensive, according to several news outlets.
While the channel’s correspondent in Tahrir Square was reporting incidents of sexual harassment during popular celebrations of Sisi’s Sunday inauguration, Bahnassy said laughing “[they] are happy, the people are joking.”
Bahnassy later claimed on her Facebook page that her comment was not directed at the correspondent or about the incident, but rather a comment to her guests about the “people’s happiness.”
“Is it possible that a woman would feel happy that another woman like her was harassed?” Bahnassy wrote.
Bahnassy’s reaction, however, stirred massive outrage and comments on social networking websites accused her of justifying rape and said reactions like hers blame victims.