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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Nora Younis

Interviewed July 15, 2024

My friends were sexually assaulted. The tore their clothes. They played with their bodies. They beat them. They said bad words to them. They were humiliated. And all was under the supervision of the police. But because I spit on the general, because I said bad– I was beaten, and I crawled out, it´s– this actually saved me. It was horrible because they pushed foreign correspondents. They pushed them on their face on the ground, and then they groped their bodies. It was terrible. It was a terrible day. And it was announced all over the world.

But what was important in my pictures were the faces of two security generals who supervised the process. And I took them all to the general prosecutor, and I filed a complaint, again, as—[President Hosni] Mubarak being the supreme head of the police, and against el-Adly [Habib El- Adly served as Interior Minister under Mubarak and was later sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption and conspiring to kill protesters.] being the head of the ministry– the minister of interior. And after one year the files were closed, the cases were closed, and they said they cannot identify the perpetrators.

And to me, this was even more shocking. I mean you cannot identify a police general in uniform who was on duty in this street at this moment, in this day? So there was a call for a meeting. And it was a call for meeting for all the women who were– who witnessed this day. We got together and we decided to form a women´s group called The Street is Ours. What we could make up out of what happened, what we could understand, is that they wanted to deprive women of their political participation.

They wanted to take women out of the public space. And we wanted to say, “No, we are not going home. We are not going to stay home. We are going to continue to be in the street.” And that was it. We did lot of demonstrations after, women-only demonstrations, conferences. We documented all the testimonials. So there was a lot of work to build on it afterwards. The Egyptian street was not completely safe for women since I was a little girl. It was never completely safe for women. But from this day in 2005, forward, it became completely crazy. It was not like this before.

When I was in school, when I went to university, there was like flirtations, or you would hear a couple of words. But it would be rarely that a man would touch a woman in the street. It was very rare. But after what happened in this day, all the press, all the televisions, or the newspapers, were talking about sexual harassment, sexual molestation. I think the word itself was repeated in the media so much, so much that it was never said like this before. It was like all the time, all the time, all the time. And what happened afterwards, nobody was punished.

I mean so all the Egyptian street was talking about sexual harassment, describing sexual harassment, putting pictures of victimized women, like, who were sexually harassed. And nobody was punished. No legislation was put forward at this point. And the ones accused of the sexual harassment were the state. The state supported the sexual harassment. With no punishment, I believe that this encouraged a lot of young, poor, hopeless, future-less men to go on and do the same. I mean if my government, if my police is supervising this, if it´s okay by the government, why don´t I get my share? I´m living a miserable life, as well.

So I strongly believe that what the Mubarak regime did that day is responsible for the state of sexual harassment we have in Egypt now. I never called myself a feminist. Because I think I just– what happened then was horrible. And when we said the group is called The Street is Ours and it was a women´s group, it was because the attack was aggressing women. But I knew that men were featuring so much bigger abuse inside the detention places. I mean we knew that men were sexually assaulted in prisons, in detention camps, in police stations. So I mean it was shocking that it was women. But I have to remind myself that everyone who plays politics gets his share from this regime. So I mean not for a certain reason, but I wouldn´t just call myself a feminist.