Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The power of “Tahrir Girl” | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Just moments after it had occurred, images and footage of her assault was being spread across social networking and news websites.

Activists were bewildered as to what they should call her. At first, they named her the ‘girl in the blue bra”, but this seemed unacceptable. Then other names were given to her, as her identity initially remained a mystery; finally, they settled on simply calling her “Tahrir Girl”. We all saw how soldiers quickly swarmed around “Tahrir Girl”; furiously kicking and dragging her along the street as they stripped her of her clothes. This incident, which occurred last week during clashes between protesters and the Egyptian army in Cairo, was met with widespread international condemnation and outrage. The Egyptian military tried to reduce the impact of this footage by airing other footage and images, but to no avail, as nothing can reduce the tremendous damage that has been inflicted upon the Egyptian military’s image and reputation following the widespread circulation of footage and images of the violence visited upon the Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square last week, particularly the attack endured by “Tahrir Girl.”

Egyptian official state media, together with the corresponding “Muslim Brotherhood”, Salafist and Arab media loyal to the military and the remnants of the former regime, tried to present footage of unknown individuals setting fire to Egypt’s Scientific Institute, which housed a priceless wealth of knowledge,, to countermand the wave of footage depicting the violence in Tahrir Square. No one can argue against the fact that the burning down of Egypt’s Scientific Institute is a catastrophe, bearing in mind that the identity of those responsible for this remains unknown; at least publicly. However, there were those who desperately attempted to portray the fire at Egypt’s Scientific Institute as the “most important event” of the Cairo clashes. Truly, this was a media war, which took place side-by-side with the actual clashes on the street.

Protestors posted footage of uncontrolled violence showing the Egyptian army and security forces physically assaulting and even shooting protesters, whilst the military attempted to counter this by screening footage of young men throwing Molotov cocktails, alleging them to be thugs and criminals hired by the protesters.

However after the footage of “Tahrir Girl” being brutally assaulted became the centre of the debate, attempts were made to play this down and move away from this terrible incident. An official statement was released confirming that an investigation was being launched into the matter but also calling for a probe into the circumstances surrounding the assault. Meanwhile, some media figures bolstered the military’s case by asking boldly “what was this girl doing in Tahrir Square in the first place?”…as if protesting is reserved for men. Other sick comments were also put forward, questioning “Tahrir Girl’s” morals and background!

Needless to say, politics is full of bias, whilst investigations, if carried out seriously and transparently, could identify those responsible for setting fire to Egypt’s Scientific Institute. However, in the specific case of the “Tahrir Girl” incident, we are faced with events that are clear as day, both with regards to the identity of the perpetrators, and their viciousness and brutality!

“Tahrir Girl” today has become more powerful and influential than any authority, be it military or religious. The footage of the assault on “Tahrir Girl” represents new evidence that we hardly needed; evidence that our revolutions are still in their early stages, and their end is far off, unless we firmly resolve our position on violence, and acknowledge women’s rights to be free and equal partners in all aspects of life.